Does surgery do More Than Lose Weight ?
Sep 11, 2016 · by · no comments
Bariatric surgery. What is it? Well the term covers several different types of procedures but all deal with effectively shrinking the size of a person’s stomach. It tends to happen only for patients who suffer from life-threatening obesity. On the other hand, guidelines for who may have such procedures have been relaxing bit by bit. Its purpose seems clear enough—to combat obesity at the source! But bariatric surgery does more than lose weight.
One of the many side effects of obesity—and sometimes just being overweight—proves a little startling. The obese often suffer from premature aging.
Quite apart from the wear and tear of carrying around so much extra weight—which puts a strain on muscles, on joints and even bones—the obese often suffer from microscopic damage which mimics aging. It all comes down to a part of the chromosome called a telomere. On that level nearly all processes in the body have their basic components. Telomares function almost as a fuse, burning away an individual organism’s life span. Part of what happens with obesity is that telomeres shorten. The result—the body ages, physically if not chronologically.
With shorter telomeres, individual cells do not reproduce as often or as quickly. This impedes healing and over the long term cuts down on lifespan as well as overall function.
What proves amazing is that bariatric surgery reverses that process. Studies of patients who’ve undergone the procedure show marked improvements. In effect their telomeres actually grow longer. As a result, within two years the premature aging not only stops but begins to go in the opposite direction! This is because in a fundamental way our individual cells are what ages, not the organism as a whole. Keep in mind also the human body replenishes the vast majority of its cells every few years. Later cells, as a person ages, are in effect “born” older. Whereas in the obese, this happens sooner, alleviation of obesity returns the process to what it should be.
Keep in mind this last. Weight loss per se cannot act as some fountain of youth. Reversing obesity may make a patient feel younger; in fact they remain their chronological age. What they are experiencing is a return to their natural energy and health level appropriate for their current lifespan. This procedure corrects what has gone wrong, but imparts no new life.
Some other factors to think on—the price. Bariatric surgery while not prohibitive does not come anywhere near cheap. One should always check with a given health plan to see if it is covered. More, there are strict guidelines about who may be given the procedure—although those guidelines have relaxed somewhat in recent years. More, by any definition this is an invasive procedure with possible deleterious effects. Not least is the way a human body reacts to such invasion, which can seriously impact how a patient absorbs nutrients like sodium or calcium, resulting in secondary problems like loss of bone density. Radical weight loss can result in gallstones. A higher percentage of those undergoing the procedure develop mental health problems, presumably as a result of such a major loss of self image.
Which means, diet and exercise still remain the best option for any but the most severe cases.