August 27, 2014
1 min read

Weight loss after bariatric surgery linked to brain benefits

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Brain activity associated with obesity and cognitive function can be improved with weight-loss surgery, according to recent study findings published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“When we studied obese women prior to bariatric surgery, we found some areas of their brains metabolized sugars at a higher rate than normal-weight women,” Cintia Cercato, MD, PhD, of the University of São Paulo in Brazil, said in a press release. “In particular, obesity led to altered activity in a part of the brain linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease — the posterior cingulate gyrus. Since bariatric surgery reversed this activity, we suspect the procedure may contribute to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”

Cercato and colleagues evaluated 17 obese women to determine the effect of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery on brain function. PET scans and neuropsychological tests were used to assess brain function and activity among participants before surgery and 6 months after. Sixteen lean women were also tested as controls.

After the procedure, 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.

Significant differences were not found between the two groups for performance on the neuropsychological tests. However, the obese group showed improvements in the Trail Making Test, which assessed executive function, after the weight-loss surgery.

Before surgery, the obese group showed greater cerebral glycolytic metabolism in some cerebral regions compared with controls. Differences in cerebral activity between the two groups were no longer apparent 6 months after the surgery.

“Our findings suggest the brain is another organ that benefits from weight loss induced by surgery,” Cercato said. “The increased brain activity the obese women exhibited before undergoing surgery did not result in improved cognitive performance, which suggests obesity may force the brain to work harder to achieve the same level of cognition.”

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development-CNPq. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.