One of the lesser-known consequences of obesity is the fact that it causes premature aging of the cells. Obese individuals have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines (a cell signal related to inflammation) and their cells have shorter telomeres at the end of their chromosomes—which means there is less time before the cell loses the ability to divide safely. In a novel study out of Italy, bariatric surgery seems to have been able to reverse some of this premature aging through the resulting weight loss.
The study had 76 participants who had an average age of 40 and an average BMI of 44.5 kg/m2. All patients had been unable to lose weight through lifestyle and diet approaches and had been referred for bariatric surgery as a final attempt. The specific surgery in question reduces the size of the stomach, thus limiting the amount of food that can be eaten.
Blood samples were taken before the surgery and at the one- and two-year follow-up marks in order to compare the markers of premature aging. The results were impressive. After the first year, average BMI had dropped to 27.5kg/m2 (a 38% reduction) and there was a distinct decrease in various inflammatory cytokines throughout the body. This suggests that the loss of body fat helped shift the body from a more inflammation-prone state to an overall healthier one.
After the second year, telomeres were also observed to be 80% longer than they were before the surgery. Since cells replace themselves regularly, the cells being observed were not the same ones that were around when the initial blood samples were taken. It does suggest, however, that these cells will be able to stick around longer at full function thanks to their longer telomeres. Oxidative damage to the telomeres was also observed to have been reduced.
The premature aging brought by obesity is one of the reasons for the condition’s long-term health complications. The potential for even last-resort weight loss options like bariatric surgery to help reverse this premature aging in the form of longer telomeres and reduced inflammatory cytokines is promising and should offer hope for anyone who is wondering if it’s “too late” for them to do anything about their weight or health.
Source for Today’s Article:
“Weight Loss from Bariatric Surgery Appears to Reverse Premature Aging,” European Society of Cardiology web site, July 8, 2016; http://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/Last-5-years/weight-loss-from-bariatric-surgery-appears-to-reverse-premature-aging.