Bariatric surgery, which significantly curtails the amount of food a person can eat, is the most effective treatment against obesity and is being recognized as a potentially valuable tool in the fight against diabetes related to obesity. It is being performed on increasing numbers of people worldwide, including teenagers.
Unfortunately, some types of bariatric surgery may also cause bone loss, a cause for concern, particularly when carried out on young people who have not yet reached their peak bone mass, say endocrinologists from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, who have just published a review of current literature in the journal Obesity Reviews, now online.
Authors, Dr Malgorzata Brzozowska and Associate Professor Jackie Center, say that skeletal examination and treatment should be considered part of patient care, before and after procedures.
In the United States, 'Roux-en-Y' gastric bypass surgery, one of the most invasive of the procedures, is the most common. Much of the stomach is removed and part of the small bowel bypassed. Less radical is the 'gastric sleeve', which involves removing a large part of the stomach leaving a narrowed smaller stomach, restricting food intake and at the same time speeding the passage of food to the gut. The least invasive, and only reversible measure, is the 'gastric band', which is an inflatable ring placed between the oesophagus and stomach, making it possible to eat only small amounts of food slowly.
"Even though we don't yet understand all the mechanisms, we can see that the more radical the procedure, the greater the bone loss long-term," said Dr Brzozowska, who undertook the review as part of her PhD.
Dr Brzozowska is the first person to do a widespread analysis of current research into the complex interrelationships between fat, bone and nutritional restriction.
"In many situations significant weight loss is associated with bone loss, with or without surgery. The more invasive types of surgery appear to heighten bone turnover and the associated bone loss. This is thought to be caused not only by rapid weight loss and absorption of fewer vital nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, but possibly also by changes in hormones released by fat and the gut, and their impact on the central nervous system," she said.