One response we hear from our patients is that after losing weight, they feel younger. Is this positive feeling just a ‘feeling’, or is there any science behind this? It turns out that losing weight through bariatric surgery doesn’t just make people feel younger — it may actually rewind genetic signs of aging, according to a study that had been done at Stanford University. Researchers discovered that in some gastric bypass patients, chromosome caps known as telomeres grew longer. Normally, these  get shorter as people age. While the telomeres only grew by about 2–3 % in length, any growth will likely reverse the effects of aging, said Dr. John Morton, President of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). The researchers found that those who were the sickest before surgery saw the greatest benefit, such as those who had additional illnesses including heart disease and chronic inflammation.

The patients in the small study were mostly women with an average body mass index (BMI) of 44 and average age of 49. On average, the group lost 71% of their excess weight after having gastric bypass surgery. Additionally, their fasting insulin levels (an indicator of dangerous metabolic syndrome) dropped four-fold. The researchers also reported that in patients who had high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol before the operation, telomeres lengthened, compared to patients with lower LDL levels.

While the findings sound encouraging, they don’t point to weight loss surgery as being a “magic bullet” which will reverse aging.  We are always careful to make sure our patients understand these procedures are a strong tool, but not a quick fix or an ‘easy way out’. In terms of this study, more research is needed to confirm the impact of surgery on telomere lengths, as well as the effects of telomere length on actual health. We’re excited to see more research done on the clinical relationship between weight loss and the aging process.

For people who have struggled with their weight without lasting success, weight loss surgery, such as the Lap-Band, gastric bypass, or gastric sleeve, may be an effective option. Weight loss surgery has many benefits–physical, mental, and social. You can learn more about your options, and how you may benefit from surgery by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Mona Misra today at 1-800-788-1394.