30/03/2011 13:18 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Should Obese Children Be Given Gastric Bands?

A leading doctor says severely obese children should be given gastric bands to reduce their weight.

Professor Nick Finer, consultant endocrinologist at University College London Hospital, and an obesity specialist, says diet and exercise programmes are almost certain to fail for these children.

He told the Times: "I know I'm raising my head above the parapet. But if we don't consider bariatric surgery we may be missing an opportunity to help these children and their families.

"I remember a time, years ago, when complicated toxic chemotherapy became available to treat leukaemia. People said it was unethical to treat children with these horrible drugs because it would make their lives a misery and only extend their lives by a year.

"We found that one year went to five years to ten years, and now 70 per cent of cases of childhood leukaemia are cured. I'm not saying that obesity is the same as leukaemia, but there are parallels.

"We have a treatment that cures adults of diabetes and liver disease. I think it's unethical not to see whether it could be successful and acceptable in children."

It has been reported this week that obese children are more likely to be bullied at school and have issues of loneliness and low self-esteem.

Finer says that excess fat starts to affect children's blood vessels when they are as young as six or seven.

The idea of giving children surgery to treat obesity has been controversial.

There was an outcry when two weeks ago it was revealed that two 14-year-olds in Sheffield had been given gastric bands.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said then that he thought "it was not a good idea to cut children up".

However Finer says surgery may be the best option for many children.

He told the Times that he wants a national research programme, in specialised centres, to start operating on older teenagers.

"We could start with older teenagers with a BMI of 40 and above, and then start pushing back the age, first back to 14, then to 11 and 12," he told the newspaper. "Then in a few years time, perhaps we can look at the case for intervening earlier."

What do you think? Should surgery be an option for these children?

Source: The Times