What Research tells us about Obesity, Bariatric Surgery, and Cognitive Function

Posted on: 24th Jun, 2022


Alexander Ayzengart, MD, MPH, FACS, specializes in advanced laparoscopic, metabolic, and bariatric surgery. Before joining Nevada Surgical, Dr. Ayzengart provided his expertise in weight loss surgery, gastroesophageal disease, anti-reflux surgery, and abdominal and inguinal hernia surgery at the University of Florida Health Bariatric Surgery Center. As a new member of the Nevada Surgical team, he’s bringing his expertise to the northern Nevada community.

The prevalence of severe obesity has increased dramatically over the last four decades in the United States and around the world, resulting in increased death rate and higher prevalence of medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Now, new research is drawing a link between obesity, bariatric surgery, and cognitive function.

The Effect of Obesity on Cognitive Function

The toll of obesity on one’s physical health has been well established, and we’re learning about the effect it has on cognitive function. Specifically, new research shows that obesity is also associated with poor neurocognitive performance. Multiple cognitive domains, such as memory, psychomotor speed, processing speed, reaction time, complex attention, executive function and cognitive flexibility are all affected in patients with obesity.

Even though the exact molecular bases for these adverse effects of obesity are still not clearly understood, the scientists theorize that excess weight can cause an increase in inflammation and disease of small vessels in the brain. In addition, the interaction between a multitude of health-related conditions that are associated with obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea, can also lead to secondary cognitive dysfunction. Thus, the effect of obesity on one’s cognition is multifactorial and can only be reversed if the proposed treatment, such as bariatric surgery, makes a profound impact on obesity together with its comorbidities.

The Effect of Bariatric Surgery on Obesity & Cognitive Function

There is some good news, however. While excess weight is associated with cognitive deficits in both adults and children, it’s also true that weight loss with bariatric surgery leads to significant cognitive improvements. Subsequent research on this topic has demonstrated that the significant and rapid weight loss which results from bariatric surgery is associated with prompt and sustained improvements in cognitive function, including memory, executive function, and cognitive control. That’s in addition to the many benefits of bariatric surgery, which include significant improvement or resolution of diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and joint pain.

Decades of research make it clear that bariatric surgery is both effective and safe. In fact, it’s among the safest routine procedures performed in the United States — statistically safer even than a cholecystectomy. Typically, the procedure is around 45 to 90 minutes and leaves the patient with four or five Band-Aids. In short, bariatric surgery does something that diet plans or medications cannot — it makes permanent changes to the tissues responsible for regulating body weight, metabolism, and blood sugar. And now, we’re learning about the cognitive benefits too.

Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of bariatric surgery and whether you might be considered a candidate, contact the team at Nevada Surgical today. We’re happy to answer all your questions.

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