A recent study found that overweight kids who had surgery were more likely to become obese within seven months. As reported, the study from Boston Children’s Hospital singled out tonsillectomies as particularly problematic, especially if children were already overweight.
“You can’t just treat the sleep apnea. You have to have nutrition and lifestyle counseling, too,” said lead researcher Dr. Eliot Katz, a respiratory disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Nutrition and exercise are just as important as treating the sleep apnea with a single procedure,” said Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, who co-directs the pediatric sleep evaluation center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and was not involved in the study.
The new study in the August print issue of the journal Pediatrics, offers “certainty” that it’s actually an effect of the treatment, Katz said. “That’s because children in the study were randomly assigned to have surgery or to ‘watchful waiting’ putting off surgery and staying with other options, such as medications to better control any nasal allergies or asthma symptoms. “Altogether, 204 children aged 5 to 9 were assigned to have surgery right away, while 192 stuck with watchful waiting. Katz’s team found that over seven months, children who underwent surgery showed a quicker average weight gain, versus kids in the comparison group.
There are a few possible explanations for the post-surgery weight gain, according to Katz’s team. Calorie-burning may dip when children are no longer laboring to breathe during sleep. And some kids may burn fewer calories during the day because they become less active after their sleep apnea improves.