Treatment Options for Severe Obesity in the Pediatric Population: Current Limitations and Future Opportunities

Justin R. Ryder*, Claudia K. Fox, Aaron S. Kelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Objective: Severe obesity is the only obesity classification increasing in prevalence among children and adolescents. Treatment options that produce meaningful and sustained weight loss and comorbidity resolution are urgently needed. Methods: The purpose of this review is to provide a brief overview of the current treatment options for pediatric severe obesity and offer suggestions regarding future opportunities for accelerating the development and evaluation of innovative treatment strategies. Results: At present, there are three treatment options for youth with severe obesity: lifestyle modification therapy, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery. Lifestyle modification therapy can be useful for improving many chronic disease risk factors and comorbid conditions but often fails to achieve clinically meaningful and sustainable weight loss. Pharmacotherapy holds promise as an effective adjunctive treatment but remains in the primordial stages of development in the pediatric population. Bariatric surgery provides robust weight loss and risk factor/comorbidity improvements but is accompanied by higher risks and lower uptake compared to lifestyle modification therapy and pharmacotherapy. New areas worth pursuing include combination pharmacotherapy, device therapy, identification of predictors of response aimed at precision treatment, and interventions in the postbariatric surgical setting to improve long-term outcomes. Conclusions: Treating pediatric severe obesity effectively and safely is extremely challenging. Some progress has been made, but substantially more effort and innovation are needed in the future to combat this serious and ongoing medical and public health issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)951-960
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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