(The Hill) – Weight loss surgeries are on the rise among American teenagers and children, according to new study.  

A new research letter, published in JAMA Pediatrics journal, said that metabolic and bariatric surgeries among adolescents ages 10-19 jumped by nearly 20 percent between 2020 and 2021 as severe obesity rates among the age group also increased. The research also found that severe obesity is the fastest-growing subcategory og obesity in the United States pediatric population, with a rising rate from 5.6 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2018.  

This increase in severe obesity rates is about 4.8 million youths, the letter said.

The researchers also noted that metabolic and bariatric surgery is a “safe and effective treatment” for severe obesity, saying that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement last year calling for increased pediatric access to these surgeries when it is medically needed.  

They found that more adults and children and teenagers received weight loss surgeries in 2021 than in 2020. In 2021, 1,349 youths completed metabolic and bariatric surgeries, compared to 1,235 in 2020, according to the study.

Among adults, there was about a 24 percent increase in weight loss surgeries from 2020 to 2021, increasing from 167,119 to 207,834, the research stated.

“The AAP has highlighted the need to educate pediatricians about the benefits of MBS for qualified patients,” the letter reads. “Historically, [metabolic and bariatric surgery] has been underused in youths due to barriers, including low referral rates, limited access, and poor insurance coverage.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity in U.S. children ages 2 to 19 years old from 2017 to 2020 was about 19.7 percent. This is equal to 14.7 million children and adolescents.