Your Brain after Obesity Surgery

Your brain after obesity surgery responds to food differently than before surgery and differently than it does after a behavioral weight program. Likewise, brain function improves in children with excess weight and low fitness after treatment with an aerobic exercise program. These observations come from two new studies in Obesity that provide a glimpse of the growing understanding about how obesity and its treatment affect brain function.

Amanda Bruce and colleagues compared functional MRI scans of a sample of patients before and after gastric banding surgery to scans from a matched sample of patients losing similar amounts of weight in a behavioral treatment program. The demographics of the two samples were also matched. The found changes in brain responses to food for both groups after weight loss. But the nature of the changes were different. The response to food cues by the banding patients suggested that the cues were less relevant and rewarding to them. Food cues seemed to command more attention from participants in behavioral weight programs than they did from band patients.

In another study, Cynthia Krafft and colleagues studied the effect of an aerobic exercise program on brain function in children with excess weight and low fitness. A control group participated in a sedentary attention control exercise. They found substantial improvement in cognitive control — essential for mentally challenging tasks and situations — in the aerobic exercise group after 8 months, but not in the control group.

Effective obesity treatment has real and measurable effects on brain function. Glib advice to “get your weight under control” is no substitute.

Click here to read the study by Bruce et al in Obesity. and click here to read the study by Krafft et al. Click here to read more about obesity’s impact on brain function in Maclean’s.

Brain Art, photograph © Ars Electronica / flickr

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