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Extreme measures for combating childhood obesity

CINCINNATI (WKRC) – It may seem like a drastic decision, but a first-of-its-kind study now shows obesity surgery might be a one of the best options for parents to consider for children who are severely overweight.

Local doctors say the study reveals why it may soon be considered more often in younger kids. For years , the need for weight loss surgery has been growing in teens and young adults. Now, with obesity being seen in children ages two to five, the team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital says it may be needed more often in younger children.

Two young girls told Local 12 they do think there are benefits to not delaying a measure sometimes needed to save lives long after the weight comes off.

Deja Watts shared, "I remember having an incident, when my mom and dad took me to the Disney Store, and couldn't get a shirt out of there. And I just remember feeling so depressed."

Most of the time Deja says she didn't let it bother her too much. As knee pain and signs of diabetes started showing up in her body, Deja made the decision to take extreme measures. She had gastric bypass surgery.

The surgery divides her stomach so she is only left with a small pouch for food. In three months she dropped 40 pounds.

The dramatic results are pretty typical according to Dr. Michael Helmrath, leading researchers in a study released in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology to conclude that maybe weight loss surgery at younger ages would yield healthier teens and young adults.

That might have been the case for Tiffany Hunter. She began noticing extreme weight gain early on when she was in the second grade. But she waited to have surgery until her weight was dangerously high for health in high school. Now, more than a decade later, she's still nearly 200 pounds lighter.

The research shows she may still be at greater risk for some top killers such as heart disease and diabetes than others at her age. The research found when obesity surgery is delayed those kids continue to gain weight over that period of time and have new onset of the diseases.

At what age should obesity surgery be an option to prevent those problems?

There are people doing surgery on 8-year-olds and some even younger. Surgery at younger ages might also reduce the emotional toll of what Deja Watts said she got tired of feeling. Both Deja and Tiffany Hunter also want others to know that they did not choose the easy way out. It's not a quick fix and won't solve all problems.

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