Bariatric Surgery – Brain Benefits?

It’s well-known that carrying too much weight puts stress on the heart, joints and organs, but a number of recent studies have shown that obesity may even be harmful to our cognitive abilities. One study conducted at the University of Washington revealed that obesity may induce physical changes in the brain that make it difficult to control eating habits, and another from the UCLA discovered that obese, elderly individuals had 8% lower brain mass than did older people of normal weight. Additionally, people who were simply overweight had 4% less brain volume than their slimmer counterparts.

While these findings are troubling, a new study found that the negative effects of obesity on the brain may not be permanent. Brain activity associated with obesity and cognitive function can be improved with bariatric surgery, according to the research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers examined 17 obese women to look at the effect of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery on brain function. PET scans and neuropsychological tests were used to evaluate brain function and activity among the women before surgery and then again 6 months later. Results were compared with a control group of 16 lean women. After RYGB, there was a significant reduction of weight, as well as improved metabolism and inflammatory parameters. In terms of brain function, the results demonstrated that some areas of surgery patients’ 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.

To learn more about the negative impact of obesity and how bariatric surgery may be able to help you lose weight and improve your health, call NYU at 212-263-3166.