Bariatric Surgery = Fountain of Youth?

So maybe you're not fat enough to need bariatric surgery. But it gives those who choose it an unfair advantage over the rest of us.  It just may turn back the clock.

According to, "Stanford University researchers say surgical weight loss may turn back the effects of aging at a genetic level."

Scientists measured the length of patients' telomeres.  Telomeres, or chromosome caps, are genetic biomarkers that play an important role in cellular aging and in the development of disease. "As people age or have chronic disease, their telomeres become shorter," the Web site reports.  But bariatric surgery somehow lengthens them.

While patients who underwent this surgery saw their bad cholesterol and high levels of inflammation decrease, they also saw their telomeres grow longer.

The length of telomeres is significant, because every time they divide, they get shorter. And the shorter they are, the shorter your life may be.  But that doesn’t mean that you'll die, Jerry Shay, a cell biologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, told NBC News.
“The length of your telomeres doesn’t mean you’re going to drop dead, it just means that something’s going on. It’s a biological sensor of the stress and damage that is going on in your body.”

“Obesity has an adverse effect on health, causes pre-mature aging and reduces life expectancy. This is the first study to show that surgical weight loss may be able to reverse the effects,” quotes study co-author John M. Morton, MD, chief of bariatric surgery at Stanford University Medical Center. “If your telomeres get longer, you’re likely to reverse the effects of aging and have a lower risk of developing a wide range of age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart and respiratory diseases, and certain types of cancer.”

The patients in the study were morbidly obese and lost 71 percent of their excess weight through the surgery.

The improvement wasn't large, NBC News notes, but it was greatest in those who were the sickest, patients who were not only heavy but already had chronic inflammation and heart disease (inflammation has also been found to cause cancer).

The study didn't show that weight-loss surgery smoothes wrinkles or prevents gray or thinning hair. But Morton told NBC News that patients often wind up looking younger. "You do have some actual visual changes beyond weight loss," he said.

Although the wrinkles women often get after they lose their puffy cheeks may be a bit of a drawback, in the end.


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