Obesity is associated with compromised heart function and several forms of heart disease. Not only does excess body weight affect heart health indirectly, but it can actually cause unfavorable changes to the structure and function of the heart, even without a diagnosis of heart disease.
The study, which was conducted by Dr Theophilus Owan and colleagues at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, wanted to determine whether gastric bypass surgery (GBS) would favorably impact cardiac remodeling and function.
To examine this issue, the study enrolled 733 severely obese participants. One group, or 423 of the participants, had gastric bypass surgery, while the remaining participants served as a control group and did not have surgery. At a 2-year follow-up, the health status of the participants who had gastric bypass surgery were compared to the participants who did not have the surgery.
According to the study, participants in the gastric bypass surgery (GBS) group, compared to the control group, had the following results:
- a large reduction in body mass index
- significant reductions in waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and insulin resistance; the GBS group also had an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)
- reductions in sizes of the chambers of the heart; specifically, reductions in the left ventricular (LV) mass index and right ventricular (RV) cavity area (cardiovascular disease in obese people is linked to increases in these two areas)
- no change in left atrial volume of the heart, but it increased in control group
- increased LV midwall fractional shortening and RV fractional area change
The researchers concluded that the significant weight loss in patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery was associated with improved heart structure and function and that study results support the use of bariatric surgery to prevent cardiovascular complications in severe obesity.
The researchers further noted that this was not a randomized study and they suggest that the improvements are most likely due to the weight loss and not due to hormonal changes caused by gastric bypass surgery. In any event, the study indicates that heart damage caused by obesity can be reversed with weight loss and positive lifestyle changes.