Obesity is a global epidemic and is the subject of much concern in the medical community. Obesity related illnesses and diseases are cropping up in massive numbers which has led the medical community to address the problem in several different ways. Weight-loss, or bariatric, surgery is one of the most effective means of reducing obesity. It has been proven to reduce the chances of obesity related diabetes and is being used more and more, even in teenagers. A new study out of Australia has found however, that their may be some inherent risk to bone health among those who undergo this procedure, especially in young people.
Researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research published a study in the journal Obesity Reviews which suggests that bone density scans should be done before and after weight-loss surgery. Weight-loss surgery usually consist of one of two types of procedures. The most invasive procedure is called gastric bypass which removes part of the stomach and bypasses part of the small bowel. The other procedure utilizes a band that surrounds the area between the stomach and the esophagus and squeezes it forcing the patient to eat smaller portions. Gastric bypass is the most commonly used surgery in the U.S. and is highly effective for weight loss. However, Dr Malgorzata Brzozowska, who is the first person to research the association between gastric bypass and bone loss, found that the more invasive the procedure, the more bone density was lost. According to a Research Australia press release, she said, “In many situations significant weight loss is associated with bone loss, with or without surgery. The more invasive types of surgery appear to heighten bone turnover and the associated bone loss. This is thought to be caused not only by rapid weight loss and absorption of fewer vital nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, but possibly also by changes in hormones released by fat and the gut, and their impact on the central nervous system.”
The study in no way condemns the use of bariatric surgery as a treatment for obesity, but it does underscore the need for the patient and the doctor to take bone density into account before and after surgery.