Weight Loss after Bariatric Surgery Linked to Brain Benefits

Obesity can have a harmful effect on many important systems of the body, and research has suggested that it has a negative impact on the brain, as well. However, losing weight with bariatric surgery may lessen the harmful effects: According to a study published in in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, brain activity associated with obesity and cognitive function can be improved with bariatric surgery.

Researchers assessed 17 obese women to look at the effect of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery on brain function. Neuropsychological tests and PET scans were used to evaluate brain function and activity among the women before surgery and then again 6 months later. They compared the results to a control group of 16 lean women.

They found that after bypass surgery, there was a significant reduction of weight, as well as improved metabolism and inflammatory parameters. However, the obese group remained heavier than the control group. The findings in terms of the brains showed that some areas of their brains metabolized sugars at a higher rate than normal-weight women. Specifically, obesity led to altered activity in a part of the brain called the posterior cingulate gyrus—which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Since bariatric surgery reversed this activity, the researchers suspect that it may contribute to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

We spoke with expert weight loss surgeon Dr. Gregory Schroder about the study. He said: “For centuries we have known how obesity adversely affects patients. We are well aware of the numerous comorbid conditions that patients can suffer with and the improvement afforded through weight loss surgery. Only recently now are we starting to see the tremendous benefit from surgical weight-loss–not only in resolving these comorbidities, but also in the metabolic effects that weight-loss has on our patients. Up regulating, down regulating neuro hormonal transmitters; blocking or enhancing receptors, are all part of metabolic surgery and we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg!”

Dr. Schroder also cautioned that these findings, while encouraging, need further investigation. “The study implies that weight-loss surgery reduces the risk of dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. While the study is a positive finding, further studies are required to improve the understanding of the effect of cognitive dysfunction as it is related to obesity and the effects of weight loss surgery on this and other neurohormonally mediated diseases,” he said.

Related Reading: Obesity May Harm the Brain, But Exercise Could Help

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