The negative health impacts of obesity are not irreversible, according to a study linking weight loss surgery to improved function of the heart and blood vessels.
With more than one-third of U.S. adults considered obese, experts worry about the serious health consequences associated with this condition. Among the many health conditions caused by obesity, including cancer and diabetes, cardiovascular health is a major concern. Even when obese patients have no major ailments, obesity can cause small changes to the body that lead to serious complications later in life.
One of these small changes is endothelial dysfunction, which occurs when the membrane inside the heart and blood vessels becomes stiff, often serving as a warning sign regarding heart health. Not only can endothelial dysfunction lead to the development of atherosclerosis or heart disease, it increases risk of heart attack and stroke—two leading causes of death in the United States. The good news is that weight loss surgery may help reverse this potentially serious condition in obese patients.
Researchers in Switzerland recently tested the impact of gastric bypass surgery on endothelial dysfunction in both rats and humans. Using key markers of heart health, they were able to compare vessel function before and after weight loss surgery to see if gastric bypass helped reverse damage associated with obesity. After analysis, researchers found that not only did weight loss surgery improve vessel function in rats after just eight days, gastric bypass helped reverse endothelial dysfunction in nearly 30 obese patients participating in the study.
Although larger studies are needed on the issue, findings are promising. It’s well established that gastric bypass surgery can help reduce weight, improving health and reducing risk for chronic diseases later in life. It’s less clear, however, whether weight loss can actually reverse medical conditions, especially in a short period of time. If so, the hope is that obese patients with warning signs of more serious health conditions can prevent ever developing those conditions by losing weight.