Weight-loss surgery has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes, lower the risk for heart disease and cancer, and improve fertility rates, among other positive health benefits. Now, a new study conducted by researchers in Brazil is showing that weight-loss surgery can also boost brain health, and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Previous research shows that obese individuals are at a 35 percent higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease than individuals with a healthy, normal weight, and that their brains metabolize sugars at a higher rate than those with normal weights. The study was led by Cintia Cercato, MD, PhD, of the University of São Paolo in Brazil, and published in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
For their research, the study authors examined the effects of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery on the brain function of 17 obese women. Prior to undergoing weight-loss surgery, each woman underwent positron emission tomography (PET) scans and neuropsychological tests to determine their brain health and brain activity levels. The same tests were also performed on 16 healthy women with normal weights, and again on the 17 bariatric surgery patients six months following their procedures.
Generally, obesity was found to alter brain activity in a manner that promoted the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Prior to weight-loss surgery, the brains of the obese women worked harder in terms of memory and cognitive function compared to normal-weight women, but unfortunately, the obese women did not fare better in overall cognitive function. However, following surgery, the brains of the weight-loss patients were able to work more efficiently, and brain metabolism rates were comparable to those in the group of normal-weight women.
In conclusion, Cercato says that their study findings suggest that the human brain is yet another organ that benefits from weight-loss surgery. According to WebMD, individuals who undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery are able to lose more than half of their excess body weight following surgery.
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