As obesity rates continue to increase, so too does the prevalence of bariatric, or weight loss, surgery. The American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (www.asmbs.org) reports that, in 2006, an estimated 177,600 people in the United States underwent bariatric surgery. While these surgeries may offer a new lease on life for patients, emerging research has scientists concerned that fat may not be all that’s lost as a result of the procedure.
Researchers from the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City have discovered that weight loss surgery patients may also lose bone density. The study, which was published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (2008; 93 , 3735–40), focused on 23 morbidly obese men and women aged 20–64 years who planned to undergo surgery. Researchers measured calcium, vitamin D, bone density and parathyroid hormone levels before surgery and also at 3, 6 and 12 months following the procedure.
Upon study completion, researchers determined that in addition to an average 99-pound weight loss, participants also experienced significant declines in hipbone mineral density.
“The calcium and vitamin D deficiencies may be due to the alterations in the gastrointestinal tract that take place during these procedures,” stated author Shonni J. Silverberg, MD. The findings stress the importance of focusing attention on bone density in weight loss surgery patients, continued Silverberg. Further study is required to understand the implications of surgery-induced bone loss and fracture risk.