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Study Suggests Weight Loss Surgery More Effective Earlier In Life

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)- Up to six million adolescents in the U.S. are considered severely obese. A new study, led by a Colorado pediatric surgeon, may prompt more of those teens to opt for weight loss surgery.

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(credit: Kyle Wunsch)

The researchers followed 161 teenagers and 396 adults for five years following gastric bypass surgery. They found the teenagers were more likely to see diabetes and high blood pressure reverse.

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Dr. Thomas Inge, Director of Pediatric Surgery at Children's Hospital Colorado, led the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Kyle Wunsch (credit: CBS)

The results don't surprise 18-year-old Kyle Wunsch from Fort Morgan.

"It's been a blessing, really," he told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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These days, lunch for Wunsch is simple. He has a sandwich and a glass of water, nothing like the meal the teen from Fort Morgan used to eat.

"Fried chicken, plus a sandwich, plus a half a bag of chips," Wunsch said.

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(credit: Kyle Wunsch)

That was when he was severely obese. Wunsch weighed 320 pounds. He couldn't commit to diet and exercise.

At 15, he developed type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

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"It was a struggle every day," said Wunsch.

Last August at Children's Hospital, Wunsch had weight loss surgery called vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Part of his stomach was removed.

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(credit: Kyle Wunsch)

Nearly a year later, he is 85 pounds lighter, has normal blood pressure and is down to one medication for his diabetes.

"It's awesome," said Wunsch.

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(credit: Kyle Wunsch)

"Kyle is definitely one of our success stories," said Inge, Wunsch's surgeon.

Beginning in 2007, Inge studied the health of adults and adolescents for five years after gastric bypass surgery.

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"The weight loss was remarkably similar," he said.

But more of the teenagers reversed their high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Major findings of the five-year outcome study included:

Overall weight loss between adolescents (ages 13-19) and adults (ages 25-50) was not different with 26 percent weight reduction in adolescents and 29 percent reduction in adults.

Adolescents were 27 percent more likely to experience remission of type 2 diabetes than adults; 86 percent of adolescents and 53 percent of adults experienced remission of diabetes after undergoing surgery.

Adolescents were 51 percent more likely to experience remission of high blood pressure than adults; 68 percent of adolescents and 41 percent of adults experienced remission of hypertension after surgery.

The takeaway, according to Inge, is that obesity is best treated early.

"It does matter to go ahead and take care of this problem earlier in life when the problem is identified, rather than waiting until later," Inge said.

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(credit: Kyle Wunsch)

Teenage patients, like Wunsch, lost weight and gained confidence. They got healthier and happier.

"My outlook on life has been so much better. I feel hopeful now," said Wunsch.

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He has his sights set on a degree in musical theater.

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