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But there is a difference between Aliayha and almost everyone else who has had this operation: She is only 15.

While the number of adolescents who are overweight or obese has leveled off in recent years, the number who are severely obese — heavy enough to qualify for bariatric surgery — has nearly doubled from 1999 to 2014, according to national data, going from 5.2 to 10.2 percent of all adolescents aged 12 to 19. As a result, more and more doctors and parents are facing a difficult question: Should very heavy teenagers have bariatric surgery, a radical operation that is the only treatment proved to produce lasting weight loss in severely obese people?

The very idea fills many parents and doctors with trepidation, and with good reason, said Aaron Kelly, a physiologist and specialist in pediatric obesity at the University of Minnesota. “We’re at a point in this field where surgery is the only thing that works for these kids but we don’t know the long term outcomes.”

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By CMSRC – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22239101

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