Posterior and Inferior Surfaces of the Liver

Liver Function Improves after Bariatric Surgery

Many people think obesity is all about weight and height and BMI. To them, we suggest pausing to think about the liver. Everyone has one. No one can live without it. And in obesity, liver function suffers. But with a new study published in Diabetes Care, we find some encouragement. Researchers found that six months after bariatric surgery, fatty acid metabolism in the liver is returning to normal.

Fatty Liver Disease

Diabetes is often the first complication complication of obesity that comes to mind. But that’s wrong. Liver disease is more common. The fact is that most people with obesity (roughly 70%) have some signs of fatty liver disease. Most people with obesity don’t have diabetes, and 30% will never have it.

And in fact, new research published in Nature Communications points to a metabolic pathway in the liver for developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe that a liver protein called PTPR-γ is a key link between obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes. The liver starts producing more of that protein in response to inflammation caused by obesity. But in animals with obesity that lack the protein, diabetes doesn’t develop.

Fatty Acids in the Liver

The study in Diabetes Care examined fatty acid metabolism in the livers of people having bariatric surgery. Researchers looked before and six months after bariatric surgery in 25 subjects. They used 14 lean subjects as controls.

They found high fat content and fatty acid uptake before surgery. But after surgery, fat content returned to normal. Uptake of fatty acids was lower, but still higher than normal. Insulin sensitivity in the liver returned to normal. Six of the nine surgery patients with diabetes had a remission.

Right now, for patients with severe obesity and serious fatty liver disease, bariatric surgery may be the most effective option. A 2015 study in Gastroenterology found that that NASH resolved in 85% of patients after bariatric surgery.

NASH is a severe, even life-threatening form of fatty liver disease. We have few options for treatment. For now, bariatric surgery may be the best we have for many patients

Click here for the study in Diabetes Care and here for the study in Nature Communications.

Posterior and Inferior Surfaces of the Liver, illustration from the Classic Gray’s Anatomy, 1918 / Wikimedia Commons

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December 14, 2017

One Response to “Liver Function Improves after Bariatric Surgery”

  1. December 14, 2017 at 7:59 am, Allen Browne said:

    Obesity is bad for health. Treating obesity effectively improves a person’s health.