Penn State College of Medicine scientists looked at how gastric bypass surgery changes the nerve cell properties that regulate the digestive system in the body. They report that the surgery helps to restore many properties that tell people that they are full. Their results predict which patients will keep weight off surgery and which won’t.
Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery is considered one of the most effective ways to get obesity under control. During this procedure, the stomach is made smaller and a bypass is created to avoid a portion of the small intestine. The surgery restricts the amount of food that a person can eat at one time as well as alter nerve cells in the body. This helps to change neural signals from the gut to the brain and back and forth.
Ultimately it is these nerve cells that send signals to tell the body’s digestive system how to respond right and to regulate digestive functions in the body. In obese individuals, these nerve cells are less likely to respond to normal stimulation. This means that these people have a tougher time determining when they are full.
According to the study’s co-author Andrew Hajnal, these signals are responsible for telling patients to stop eating. If these signals are strong enough, they will help people stop eating sooner and lose weight.
The study used a high-fat diet on rate to replicate long-term exposure to this Western type of diet. They observe the various effects of gastric bypass surgery on these animals and the study reported for the first time the effects of diets on nerve cells in the body. They found that after surgery the cells restored back to normal function. This helps restore satiation signals in the body.
The goal of this study and others like it is to discover new ways to treat this problem that isn’t as invasive as gastric bypass surgery. The study’s researchers believe that once they understand what gastric bypass surgery does to the body that they can mimic that with other treatments. They believe that restricting the size of the stomach may not be the main reason this occurs and future studies will seek to determine whether this is the case or not.
These studies will look at why gastric bypass surgery is unsuccessful for some patients and successful for others. This will help surgeons determine whether or not surgery is the best option for each individual person. This also will result in a safer long term result if surgery is not the only treatment option able to help restore nerve cell functions in the body that have been altered as a result of obesity.
These studies will help doctors to understand when surgery will work for a patient or not and they will be able to predict beforehand which patients will respond well to the procedure and who will not.
The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation help fund this research.