Ministers are considering giving obese children as young as 12 weight-loss jabs in a bid to tackle the UK’s spiralling childhood obesity rates.

Experts are now analysing whether children aged between 12 and 17 who are living with obesity would benefit from semaglutide injections – a weight-loss drug recently approved to be given to adults via the NHS.

Health officials are now urging NICE to think about also offering semaglutide jabs to adolescents living with obesity.

With a decision expected to be announced in early 2024, specialists have claimed that the drug will stop more children undergoing invasive weight-loss procedures.

However, some people believe it would be ‘over-medicating’ children.

Are weight loss jabs for children a good idea?

Critics cite several reasons for not over-medicating children which include:

  • Potential interference with childrens’ growing bodies: children are growing and developing, physically and mentally, and weight loss drugs may potentially interfere with this process.
  • Lack of effectiveness evidence: the long-term impact of such treatments on children’s health remains unknown.
  • An unhealthy focus on weight:  there is the potential that injections may promote an unhealthy focus on weight and appearance, leading to potential body image issues and disordered eating.
  • Side effects: weight loss injections can have side effects which can be serious.
  • Psychological impact: use of weight loss injections might send the message that a child’s body is not acceptable as it is.

“Medicalising” a generation

According to Professor Keith Godfrey, from the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, giving the weight-loss jab to children risks ‘medicalising a whole generation’.

Charlotte Summers from Gro Health, providers of adult, children and young people’s health and wellbeing programmes commented: “Through healthy eating habits, encouraging regular physical activity, and fostering a positive relationship with food, we can empower our children to achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives. This holistic approach not only contributes to physical wellbeing, but helps to build a strong foundation for emotional and mental health. We must come together to support our children in embracing a balanced and wholesome lifestyle for a brighter, healthier future.”

Prior research demonstrates that the number of children with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and knee complications is rising.

Previous studies looking at semaglutide show that the drug has helped people lose around 12% of their total body weight, reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%.

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