Weight loss surgery benefits the brain

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Research suggests that weight-loss surgery, which is designed to overcome obesity and overeating, may benefit not only the waistline, but also the brain.

Scientists are of the opinion that it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bariatric surgery is normally viewed as a last resort to help those whose excess weight places them in danger. During the surgery, the stomach size may be reduced or the distance food has to travel through the digestive tract is shortened.

These procedures are available on the NHS and are known to be extremely effective for those suffering with obesity.

However, according to new findings, these procedures appear to have a positive impact on brain activity.

A study related to the impact of bariatric surgery was done with 17 obese women. It found that it initiated marked improvements in their mental functions linked to organisation, strategy and planning.

According to Professor Cintia Cercato, based at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the studies of the women before bariatric surgery found that some parts of the brain processed sugars at a much higher rate than in women of normal weight.

She said that obesity appeared to alter the activity in a part of the brain which is linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the posterior cingulated gyrus. She added that since this activity was reversed by bariatric surgery, they suspect that the procedure may be linked to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

It is already known that obesity places the individual at 35% more risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those of normal weight.

The research placed focus on a procedure which is known as a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYBG) which is a combination of the two types of bariatric surgery. PET brain scans and other neuropsychological tests were used in the assessment of its effect for a period of six months. The results from the obese women were compared to those from a ‘controlled’ group of 16 normal weight women who had not undergone bariatric surgery.

The scans indicated that the excessive brain activity which had been present in the women disappeared after they underwent the procedure. Six months after the surgical procedure, the levels of brain metabolism appeared to be similar in both groups. Additionally, the surgery appeared to improve the performance of the obese females in a test of ‘executive function’, which includes connection of past experiences and current actions, and involves making strategic decisions, organising and planning.

Other tests which included different aspects of memory and thinking ability indicated no change after the surgical procedure.

According to Professor Cercato, their findings suggest that the brain is another organ which can benefit from weight loss which has been induced by surgery.

She said that the increase in brain activity in the obese females prior to undergoing surgery did not indicate an improvement in cognitive performance and this suggests that the obesity may force the brain to work much harder to achieve the same cognitive level.

Image Credit: J E Theriot

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Emma Brown

Emma graduated in 2005 from the University of York with a degree in English Literature. A huge passion for writing and health topics, Emma is a perfect match for Health News UK. Hobbies include; cooking, writing (of course), musicals and her 2 dogs.

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