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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Nov;12(11):947-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2010.01286.x.

Managing childhood obesity: when lifestyle change is not enough.

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  • 1Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham, UK.


The management of childhood obesity is a clinical dilemma. Paediatricians will see those children whose weight is at the severe end of the spectrum with obesity-related co-morbidities and for whom more intensive weight loss therapies may be appropriate. A literature review was performed (January 1995-January 2010) of the roles of pharmacotherapy or bariatric surgery in the management of childhood obesity. Three hundred and eighty-three abstracts were reviewed and 76 full-text articles were requested. Of these, 34 were excluded and a total of 21 pharmacotherapy papers and 22 papers on surgery were reviewed in detail. All studies involved adolescents. Pharmacotherapy: Most studies were small and of short duration, the notable exceptions being two large RCTs of sibutramine and orlistat. Sibutramine led to a mean estimated change in BMI from baseline of -3.1 kg/m(2) vs. -0.3 kg/m(2) for placebo over 12 months. Orlistat was also beneficial with a mean reduction in BMI of 0.55 vs. an increase of 0.31 kg/m(2) in the placebo group at 12 months. Bariatric surgery: Most papers presented clinical observations and there were no randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Robust selection criteria were not used and ideal candidate selection remains unclear. Most papers showed a significant benefit of surgery in severely obese adolescents in the short term but long-term data were sparse. There were a surprisingly large number of papers examining the benefits of intensive weight management in obese adolescents. The study design of many was inadequate and the role of pharmacotherapy or surgery in childhood obesity remains unclear.

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