New Study Claims Bariatric Surgery Can Rewire Brain

According to this new study by the University of Missouri-Kansas City, people who go under the knife for weight loss surgery are less attracted to food after the procedure than those who just elect to diet to lose weight. American scientists looked at the brain scans of 16 people who lost weight from bariatric surgery and 15 patients who lost excessive weight through dieting. The study’s researchers found that those who had gastric banding surgery showed less interest in food presented to them following their operations. Those who lost weight the traditional way found food more meaningful.

The scientists found that the brain reacted differently to images of food once weight had been lost. The University of Missouri-Kansas City study showed these patients images of pizza and other food. The scientists found that during this time, the brains of the dieters were more active within their prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is known to regulate emotion and evaluate how a person feels.

The study suggests that those who change their behavior by reducing their number of daily calories and increasing their activity levels were more likely to be influenced by food while those who had laparoscopic banding surgery were more disconnected from hunger pangs at all. Amanda Bruce, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas School of Medicine simply says they’re not as motivated by food.

This study was published in the journal Obesity and was the first of its kind to assess changes in the brain differentiating between different weight loss methods. All of the patients were of similar age, BMIs (body mass index) and education levels. Bruce believes that this study is so great because there were two clearly different people that were evaluated as well as the fact this shows how much bariatric surgery does change a person’s future in terms of food.

According to the study, the surgery patients lost 9.3% of their body weight while the dieting ones shed 10.8% of theirs. The participants were evaluated by being given an MRI scan and the scientists studied their individual brain activation levels when they looked at pictures of food. Each participant was tested both before and after losing weight. Bruce said that she and her team was surprised by their findings. Ultimately because surgery patients go through a forced dietary restriction they might not feel as connected to food as those who are in more control of what they eat and what they eliminate out of their diet.