A 12-year-old Texas girl is in desperate need of gastric bypass surgery after brain damage left her with a rare and serious condition.
During surgery to remove a rare brain tumor two years ago, Alexis Shapiro’s hypothalamus was damaged.
“She has no function of her hypothalamus, or pituitary gland,” her family wrote. “This has left her with several life threatening conditions. Most we control with replacement hormones and medication. However, the one thing we have not been able to control is something called hypothalamic obesity.”
Now Alexis is left feeling hungry all the time, no matter how much she eats. At 4-feet 7-inches tall she weighs 198 pounds.
Despite being on a strict diet, she continues to gain weight. In the last three months, she’s developed Type 2 diabetes and was hospitalized for a kidney infection.
Doctors suggested gastric bypass surgery, but the family insurance provider, TRICARE, denied coverage for the $50,000 surgery this month.
“It just keeps going up and up,” said her mother, Jenny Shapiro, said of her daughter's weight. “She desperately needs this. I feel like she will die if she does not get this surgery.”
The insurer says Alexis is just too young. She must be 18 years old or have reached a point where there is no longer bone growth.
Because a length of the digestive system is no longer used, one of the complications from gastric bypass is that the body may not absorb certain vitamins any longer. Patients must follow a strict diet and sometimes supplements given by doctors, otherwise organ damage and bone diseases can occur and may not be detected for years.
Instead of appealing the denial, the family turned to GoFundMe five months ago where they started a campaign to raise money for the surgery.
As of today, they’ve raised $52,296.
"Oh my!!! I can't believe this! We are so grateful. I am going to contact the hospital on Monday. To find out if this will cover all the costs,” wrote her mother. “Thank you to everyone who cares. Also I will set up a PO box for cards and letters. Alexis would love to get mail.”
Girls are entering puberty at a younger age than ever before and obesity may be a reason why, according to a new study published Monday.
Researchers found that girls with higher body mass index, the ratio of weight and height, may develop breasts at a year younger before girls with lower body mass index (BMI). The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, says girls nowadays may start to enter puberty as early as second grade.
“The girls who are obese are clearly maturing earlier,” Dr. Frank Biro, a pediatrics professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and lead researcher of the study, said. “BMI is, we found, the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.”
A key finding in the study was girls with higher BMIs are more likely to start puberty early, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The study tracked 1,200 girls, whose ages at the beginning of the study ranged from six to eight over the course of seven years. Researchers carefully documented the girls’ body mass index.
It was found that blacks develop earlier than whites girls, at the median age of 8.8 versus 9.7 years old. The median age for Hispanics is 9.3 years and 9.7 for Asians.
The study also marks a drop in the age when white, non-Hispanic girls start puberty. The median age of when white, non-Hispanic girls begin developing is now four months earlier than what was found in a 1997 study that first revealed early puberty in U.S. girls.
The most recent study shows that blacks mature at similar ages from the 1997 study. There was not enough data to determine whether there was a change for Hispanic and Asian girls, according to USA Today.
“Each individual girl is exposed to multiple factors in today’s environment, many not present decades ago, that pay potentially influence her pubertal onset,” Marcia Herman-Giddens, professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.
The new study analyzed only breast development and not the start of menstruation, which needs to be researched further, Biro said.
NBC News reports that early puberty can lead to several problems for girls, such as low self-esteem, depression and early sexual activity.
A woman in Fargo, N.D., plans to hand out letters to the parents of children she deems “moderately obese” this Halloween in lieu of candy.
"I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight. ... I think it's just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just 'cause all the other kids are doing it," the woman, identified only as Cheryl, told radio station WRIG earlier this week.
Cheryl provided the radio station with a copy of the letter.
“You are probably wondering why your child has this note; have you ever heard the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’?” the letter asks. “I am disappointed in ‘the village’ of Fargo Moorhead, West Fargo.”
“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season,” she writes. “My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow you child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”
An expert told Valley News Live that the letter could be more damaging to children than helpful.
"It's just that kind of thing that for some kids, if they're vulnerable, might trigger major problems," said Dr. Katie Gordon, a North Dakota State University assistant professor of clinical psychology who study eating disorder.
She said the healthy weight of a child should be left to pediatricians and parents.
"That's not something that someone can judge – the health of someone – just by looking at them. I think that's the main thing," Dr. Gordon said.
"Even if a child is overweight, they might be very healthy because of what they eat and how they exercise," she added. "It's ineffective anyway because it's not likely to help the kid," she says.
A New Mexico legislator has voiced concern during a meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee in Santa Fe that stretching during school physical education activities is really yoga and could possibly introduce children to Eastern religions.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Ann Paulls-Neal, a teacher at the Albuquerque elementary school, spoke to the committee about student health and obesity.
Paulls-Neal pointed out that to her class exercises are considered stretching or mat work instead of yoga because she doesn't want to give the impression that religion is involved.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado expressed concern.
The Los Lunas Republican said parents should be notified and given the option to opt out, or their children should be offered alternative activities because yoga is linked to Eastern religions.
State Sen. Bill Soules, a Onate High School teacher in Las Cruces, said he has heard opinions of yoga, about it being based on religion, but said he had never heard of schools using it for anything more than exercise that would make kids stronger and healthier, according to the Farmington Daily-Times.
"It's a concern of the far right," said Soules, a Democrat, who serves on the legislative committee with Baldonado.
Soules said algebra is taught in public schools without any disputes, even though it also had religion-based roots.
Though the hearing ended with arguments about yoga and religion, Paulls-Neal and other teachers brought their worries about obesity in kids to the Capitol.
The head of a nonprofit progressive advocacy group took issue with the questions Baldonado raised at the meeting.
“Of all the things a legislator could focus on to get our public schools back on track, Rep. Baldonado chose this one as his most important,” said Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM.org. “Even for conspiracy theorists, this one seems far-fetched. How he thinks a rudimentary stretching routine meant to improve physical health could lead students to join a religious cult is beyond me.”
Baldonado said he wouldn't want his own home-schooled children to be exposed to non-Christian practices.
As America’s struggle with obesity continues, an increased pressure has been placed on schools to serve healthier foods and ramp up physical education programs.
Many Los Angeles are taking these initiatives one step further, and have begun sending letters to the parents of obese children. Students refer to these messages as “fat letters.”
“We look at growth charts and percentiles. And when a child is at 95 percent of their…we can look at weight for age or weight for height…that child would be considered obese,” said Laura Schmitt, a dietician who performs health screens on preschoolers in San Fernano Valley, California.
“We let the parents know in a gentle fashion, but we also send out a ton of handouts to try to help that family,” she added.
“It shouldn’t be a stigma. It’s not a way to categorize someone. It’s just showing that this child has increased risk to be obese as an adult, which then could lead to quite a few chronic diseases.”
Schmitt says out of the 900 preschoolers she screens, around 200 of them are clinically obese.
Los Angeles schools aren’t the only ones in the country sending out the letters. Schools in North Andover, Massachusetts send similar messages to parents. In Massachusetts, as well as Los Angeles, there are a handful of parents who do not like the letters.
“Every year there are a few phone calls from parents who are upset,” said Schmitt.
“No one wants get letter saying they’re obese,” said Matt Watson, the father of a North Andover student who received a letter. “That’s a very strong, uncomfortable word, and we didn’t see if fitting with our son who is very active, he’s very strong.”
Other California schools have decided against sending a letter home with students. They mail a Body Mass Index report home instead.
Making overweight or obese people feel bad about their bodies does anything but make it easier to drop the pounds. In fact, the narcissistic practice of fat shaming may be making people gain more weight.
A new study from Florida State University College of Medicine found that people who experience body-shaming were more likely to either become or stay obese.
“Participants who experienced weight discrimination were approximately 2.5 times more likely to become obese by follow-up,” said the four-year study, published this week in PLoS ONE.
“The present research demonstrates that, in addition to poorer mental health outcomes, weight discrimination has implications for obesity. Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity."
"Stigma and discrimination are really stressors, and, unfortunately, for many people, they're chronic stressors,” said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety — that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors."
In America, about 70 percent of adults are overweight and more than one third are obese. Last month, the American Medical Associations decided to label obesity a “disease.”
According to the study, internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing and other stigmatizing experiences are linked to depression and binge eating. Stress, including heightened public awareness, is also linked to weight gain.
“Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual’s physical health,” said study author Angelina Sutin, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Fla.
“And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety -- that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors, so there is a logical connection here in terms of some of the maladaptive coping strategies to try to deal with the stress of being stigmatized," Sutin said.
Obese Boy Scouts are being screened out from competing at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.
Held every four years, the jamboree is a 10-day gathering of thousands of scouts who camp, utilize their skills and go on adventure activities together in the great outdoors. The 2013 Jamboree will be held on 10,000 acres in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia.
Organizers have warned that activities will be particularly rough in this landscape. They will be unable to use buses and other personal vehicles. Most things will be done “on foot.”
For the first time, Scouts with a body mass index in the obese range are not allowed to participate. BMI is a measurement of height and weight used to indicate the “body fatness for most people,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, the CDC reported that one-third of American kids are overweight.
A BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity, the Boy Scouts said. Any child with a BMI of 30 or more will have to get a doctor’s recommendation for clearance. Any child with a BMI of 40 or more will be excluded from the 2013 Jamboree.
“It is essential that all participants and staff are prepared for their Summit jamboree experience,” said Boy Scouts of America on its website. “Our goal is to prevent any serious health-related event from occurring, and ensuring that all of our participants and staff are ‘physically strong.’”
Organizers have planned activities like mountain biking, climbing, rappelling, rafting and skateboarding, which they fear obese Scouts would not be able to do.
Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said that leaders and scouts who did not fit the requirement did not apply to the Jamboree, and he is unaware of how many were affected by the new health rules.