Bariatric Surgery: Helping with the Neurobiology of Obesity

May 4, 2015 Judy Y. Chen, MD


"Today's epidemic of overweight and obesity threatens the historic progress we have made in increasing America's quality and years of healthy life." Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, wrote in The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010. As we gain weight, we impact our health.

There are multiple factors and causes of obesity. Thirty years ago, 13% of Americans were obese. Today, over 34% are obese. What we eat, our children will eat. The prevalence of obesity in children has increased from 5% to 17% over the same period according to the CDC.

The field of investigation is constantly growing regarding the metabolic, hormonal, and behavioral relationships that lead to obesity. Obesity is complex with multiple factors influenced by genetics, behavior, and environment. Energy balance is regulated through the central nervous system. Inputs such as sight and smell of food, as well as taste and positive receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, cause a cascade of neural chemical signals. Once excess weight is present, there is evidence that neuroendocrine signals are impacted, making it more difficult to shed the weight.

Obesity contributes to many diseases from head to toe. Risk factors for neurobiological diseases increase as weight increases: migraines, strokes, dementia, intracranial hypertension and sleep disorders are clearly worsened by obesity.

Health consequences also include cardiac disease like hypertension, dyslipidemia, coronary artery disease; type 2 diabetes; stroke; liver and biliary disease; obstructive sleep apnea; respiratory, neurologic, and musculoskeletal diseases; gynecologic conditions; and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

Many studies have clearly proven that bariatric surgery and a comprehensive treatment plan can alter the neurobiology and hormones related to obesity. The hunger drive is reduced along with a restricted stomach. These changes help patients lose weight and improve many medical conditions. As patients lose weight, physical activities like walking, biking, and swimming become easier. Overall, science and experience have proven that health and quality of life can be improved with bariatric surgery.

If you'd like to find out more about bariatric surgery, stop by our open house at Swedish Weight Loss Services on Thursday, May 14, 2015 from 3-5:30 pm to meet our physicians, sample healthy snacks, and enter a raffle.

Swedish Weight Loss Services
801 Broadway #800, Seattle


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