Bariatric Surgery Benefits Brain Function, New Studies Show
There is no doubt an upside to bariatric surgery. The most obvious benefit is the weight loss. The average is five to fifteen pounds per week for the initial two to three months after surgery. A more gradual weight loss will continue afterward.
Weight loss surgery also helps to improve obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. In addition, many patients report an improved quality of life, a more active lifestyle and increased energy.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism now informs us that weight loss surgery curbs alterations in brain activity associated with obesity and improves cognitive functioning in the areas of planning, strategizing and organizing.
The Effects of Obesity on the Brain
Studies have shown that obesity has a negative impact on brain functioning. For one thing, it may desensitize the brain to the pleasure we get when we eat sugary or fatty foods and thereby promote a greater consumption of those unhealthy foods.
Obesity may may also make us more impulsive. One study showed that the part of the brain that controls impulsivity had shrunken in obese children. The smaller this region of the brain, the more likely the children were to eat impulsively.
There is also an association between belly fat and a decrease in total brain volume in middle-aged adults. Studies have shown that people with smaller brain volumes have a higher risk for dementia and do poorer on tests for cognition.
Obesity may effect the memory of post-menopausal women. Researchers found that a one point increase in a woman's body mass index correlated with a one point decrease on a 100 point memory test.
Bariatric Surgery and Improved Brain Functioning
A recent study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that bariatric surgery benefits brain function.
Seventeen obese women were studied to evaluate the effect of bariatric surgery on brain function. PET scans and neuropsychological tests to determine brain function were used both before bariatric surgery and six months after. They found that the subjects showed significant increases on a number of assessments testing for mental faculties.
Obese women who were studied prior to surgery metabolized sugar in some areas of their brains faster than normal weight women. The results of the study show that obesity might force the brain to work harder to perform cognitive tasks. Altered activity was discovered in the posterior cingulate gyrus, that part of the brain associated with Alzheimer's Disease. Whereas bariatric surgery reversed this activity, it is suspected the procedure may contribute to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Other research has shown that people who carry excess weight are 26% more likely to develop some form of dementia while those who fit the criteria for obesity are 64% more likely.
The bottom line: Researchers state that the findings from the study suggest that the brain is yet another organ that benefits from weight loss through surgery.
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