Purpose of review: The prevalence of overweight among adolescents aged 12 to 19 in the United States has steadily increased since the 1960s. The purpose of this review is to familiarize primary care clinicians with the most recent primary care, pharmacotherapy, and surgical options for the treatment of overweight in adolescence.
Recent findings: Initial treatment of the overweight adolescent should involve a comprehensive approach that facilitates changes in diet, exercise, and behavior that engage the entire family as participants and role models. For adolescents in whom a comprehensive program of diet, exercise, and behavior modification is unsuccessful, referral to a multidisciplinary team to explore further options, which may include medication and bariatric surgery, should be considered. Experience with medication for use in weight loss and bariatric surgery in adolescents is limited. Currently, two medications, orlistat and sibutramine, have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for long-term use in adolescents. Bariatric surgery is currently recommended only for adolescents who are severely overweight (body mass index>or=40) and have comorbid conditions. This intervention should be considered only after failure of other comprehensive interventions and intense medical and psychologic evaluation by a specialty referral center.
Summary: More research is needed to clarify the roles and timing of diet, exercise, behavior modification, pharmacotherapy, and surgical intervention. Also, long-term studies are needed to further determine the benefits and risks of pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery in adolescents.