I’m unable. Wholly unable:

A toddler in Saudi Arabia has become the youngest patient to undergo a bariatric weight loss surgery procedure.

Doctors determined the 2-year-old, weighing 73 pounds, required surgery after observing related sleep apnea and bowing of the child’s legs. According to a case report published in the International Journal of Surgery earlier this month, the extreme procedure was taken only after other weight-loss methods failed.

The study authors note that “full compliance” to diet and exercise by the boy’s parents cannot be verified, citing “different socio cultural habits and the absence of the practice of calculating the calorific value of the diet.”

The laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG) was carried out in 2010 at the Prince Sultan Military Medical City in Riyadh. Unlike a “lap band,” which can be removed, LSG involves actually cutting and re-sizing the stomach itself, then stapling it shut.

Paul Zimmett, an obesity expert contacted by News Corp Australia, called the case “shocking” and “very unusual.”

“We have no idea what effect this may have on the child’s growth and unless he has proper follow up he may suffer vitamin deficiencies,” he added.

Within two months of the surgery, doctors reported a 15 percent decrease in the boy’s weight. After 24 months, the boy had reportedly lost 27 percent of his weight and was back to about 50 pounds.

In the United States, childhood obesity rates have doubled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity is linked to increased incidents of cardiovascular disease, prediabetes and a slew of other physical and psychological ailments. [source]

That link in the article will take you to the full study, which is – depending on which way you look at it – either very promising or very bleak.


The child in the study suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, which – to put it simply, means the muscles in the throat and chest are incapable of protecting the throat itself from obstruction, where usually the obstruction itself is excess body fat. Obstructive sleep apnea is generally the most common form of apnea in the country right now, specifically due to the fact that the two – obesity and sleep apnea – can go hand in hand.

Sleep apnea is pretty simple – the obstruction in the throat prevents air from passing through to the lungs, which affects your ability to pass oxygen throughout your body. In short, you can basically stop breathing. This, of course, results in interrupted sleep, so a person with sleep apnea often finds themselves tired throughout the day even if they went to bed at a “decent” hour.

Let me be clear – sleep apnea isn’t reserved exclusively for the overweight and obese. Central sleep apnea, another form of sleep apnea, is less about obstruction and more about the chest cavity itself, and affects those obese and not. I’m only talking about what’s in front of me.

The study talks about the boy being 21lbs at 6mos of age, about 65lbs at 14mos old, and also notes that they “ruled out” hereditary and genetic conditions as contributing to the boy’s condition.


Y’all, I don’t know what to make of this.

Listen. I’m always happy when a child’s life is saved. And if this can change the prospects for children, then so be it.

But let’s not lie to ourselves – this isn’t a cheap procedure. Follow-up isn’t cheap. Assistance isn’t often an option. This study received no funding. What on Earth will become of families who couldn’t afford a procedure like this to save their children? Or are we expecting benevolent beings to determine whether or not children live? (Side note: so, about that affordable health care……)

I have so many questions that the study doesn’t answer – what could cause an infant to gain weight so rapidly, if we’re ruling out genetics and hereditary contributors? If we think the issue is food, as evidenced by the type of surgery they chose, then what kinds of diets did they try on the child? What worked, and what didn’t?

We could easily go on a tangent about childhood obesity and what or how often the parents are feeding him, but the reality is that this is an infant. There aren’t that many variations on the theme.

Chart courtesy of the study. Click here to view.

If you take a look at the chart of the child’s progress post-surgery, you can see that the child’s weight actually began to decrease post-surgery, but then went up closer to the publishing of this [unedited] version of the study (which was in April.) I’m curious – how much time should be used to consider whether or not a procedure is a success? We talk so much about how 5 years is – for some reason – the marker for weight loss success in people who simply do it through changing their lifestyles, but this study only covers two years. Why the rush?

There’s mention of sleep apnea being the only kind of ailment coupled with the obesity, but in his post-operation charts, his triglycerides (basically, the presence of fat in the blood, clogging up the arteries, can cause high blood pressure) have gone from “high” to “normal.” Does that imply that food contributed to

I am so weary of this. What kinds of food was the child eating before surgery, and did any of that change after surgery? What kind of measures did the family and doctors take to try to combat the rapid weight gain?

Talk to me, y’all – what do you think? How do you feel about these kinds of surgeries being performed on children? Do you think this is the future of sustainable weight management for kids?