LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Treating obesity in children can be a very different matter than treating adults. The experts at Children's Hospital Los Angeles say it's about looking at the connection between weight and overall health, but also looking at the future health of a child.
At CHLA'S first roundtable on Future-Proofing Children's Health, experts sounded the alarm on new data showing pediatric obesity has tripled in the last 30 years.
Dr. Alaina Vidmar is the medical director of CHLA's Healthy Weight clinic. She said, "If these rates continue by 2050, more than half of young folks will be living in a larger body."
She says while junk food and other "outside" factors play a role, she says the latest evidence reveals biology on the "inside" is even more important.
"Children living with pediatric obesity have differences in the way that their brain tells them when they're hungry, and when they're full In addition, they have differences in the way that their body uses their calories. So instead of taking those calories and moving them at school, they take in the calories and store them quickly as fat," Dr. Vidmar said.
Conditions that can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease. Seven years ago, when 15 year old Shadia Lopez sought help at CHLA, she was obese and endured bullying.
"Sometimes i would get picked on being on the little bigger side," Lopez said.
At CHLA, the program begins with lifestyle changes and education, like learning how to properly read labels.
Doctors also prescribed appetite suppressant and stimulant medications to help her achieve her nutrition and exercise goals.
Lopez said, "It's to help us control ourselves so we don't overeat."
Dr. Vidmar said, "We have to use all of the tools that we have at our disposal."
Tools that also include semaglutide medications and CHLA's new bariatric surgery program.
"For some young folks living in larger bodies, surgery is the appropriate treatment and we need to be able to have access to all of those tools for all of the children that may need it, " Dr. Vidmar explained.
Shadia is now closer to a healthier weight, and she's joined a team sport.
She said, "Being on volleyball, it helped me be more social with others."
The teen, once teased about her size, is now a role model for other kids wanting to lead healthier lives.