A small group of scientists gathered last week at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to share ideas about a medical mystery: the increasing evidence that some types of weight loss surgery affect not just the stomach, but the brain as well.
The procedures, two types of bariatric surgery known as gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, physically bypass or remove a portion of the stomach. Used only for obese patients whose weight threatens their health, the surgeries have proven dramatically effective, reducing patients’ excess weight in the months and years following surgery by 50, 60, and even 80 percent.
The procedures were initially thought to work through simple physical means: Patients with smaller stomachs wouldn’t be able to eat as much, allowing them to lose weight and also giving them an opportunity to reform eating habits.
But in recent years, scientists have noticed side effects of the surgery that hint at something entirely different: that the surgery somehow affects not just the stomach, but the body’s broader metabolism and even the brain.
The Radcliffe event brought together scientists whose research is relevant to obesity and addiction to investigate an increased incidence of alcohol abuse among those who have had the surgery and, through that, the possible impact of the surgery on the brain circuits that control addiction. > > > > Read More