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Significant weight loss following bariatric surgery would make the brain about 5 years younger
It was known that bariatric surgery led to a spectacular improvement in cardiometabolic health indicators. Now, a study just published in the journal NeuroImage shows that it also brings substantial benefits to the brain. Indeed, 2 years after bariatric surgery, the brains of patients who benefited from this procedure “rejuvenated” by more than 5 years.
This is the finding of a Quebec research team led by Andréanne Michaud of the School of Nutrition and the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University and the Research Centre of the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec. This team used three databases containing brain images to determine how well weight loss following bariatric surgery compensated for the premature aging of the brain associated with severe obesity.
Using the first database containing information on 640 normal-weight people, the researchers built a model to determine what constitutes a normal change in gray matter density with age. The second database, from the Human Connectome Project, compared the brains of 46 people with severe obesity to 46 people of the same gender, age, and ethnicity, but with normal weight.
“This allowed us to validate our model and confirm the findings of previous studies that reported that severe obesity was associated with changes in the brain,” notes Professor Michaud. Our analyses show that the observed brain age is about 7 years higher than the chronological age in people with severe obesity.”
The researchers then used their model to document the evolution of the brain in 32 patients who had undergone bariatric surgery at the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute – Laval University. The images were taken two months before surgery and 4, 12 and 24 months after surgery.
“The abnormalities observed in the brains of severely obese individuals may be corrected by significant weight loss and the subsequent improvement in cardiometabolic health.”
The analyses show that one year after surgery, the brains of these patients were 3 years younger. Two years after surgery, they were 5.6 years younger. “The brain age of these patients corresponded to what is observed in people of the same age with a normal weight,” notes Andréanne Michaud.
The greater the reduction in body mass index, blood pressure, and insulin resistance, the more pronounced the rejuvenation, the researchers found. “Our study suggests that the abnormalities observed in the brains of severely obese individuals may be corrected by significant weight loss and the subsequent improvement in cardiometabolic health,” summarized Professor Michaud.
The researcher and her team continue to follow these patients to determine whether the observed gains are sustained and whether they translate into improvement on tests measuring cognitive abilities.
The study published in NeuroImage is signed by Yashar Zeighami, Mahsa Dadar, Alain Dagher and Alan Evans, from McGill University, Stephanie Fulton, from the Université de Montréal, and by Justine Daoust, Mélissa Pelletier, Laurent Biertho, Léonie Bouvet-Bouchard, André Tchernof, Denis Richard and Andréanne Michaud, from the Université de Montréal.Justine Daoust, Mélissa Pelletier, Laurent Biertho, Léonie Bouvet-Bouchard, André Tchernof, Denis Richard and Andréanne Michaud, from the Institut universitaire en cardiologie et en pneumologie de Québec and Université Laval.