New study finds teens who underwent weight loss surgery had weakened bones
Researchers still advise the surgery: ‘We don’t want these patients not to get their surgeries, but we want them to take very good care of their bone metabolism’
Teens who underwent bariatric surgery had lower bone mass following surgery than teens with similar weight who did not have weight-loss surgery, according to a new study published Wednesday in Radiology.
Lead study author Dr. Miriam Bredella, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, said weakened bones should not keep teens from getting the surgery. “Totally get the surgery — diabetes and heart disease cause much more morbidity and mortality than osteoporosis, and Type 2 diabetes is also bad for your bones,” she said, per CNN.
The study involved participants ages 13-24 who took part in the study from 2015-2020. Every individual had a BMI of 35 or higher and at least one obesity related health concern.
BMI stands for body mass index and measures a person’s body fat by dividing their weight with their height.
Of the 54 participants, 25 underwent sleeve gastrectomy and the remaining 29 acted as the control group and only received diet and exercise counseling. Forty-one were female.
The surgery group in the study lost an average of 11.9 points of BMI whereas the control group gained an average of 1.5.
The researchers discovered that the surgery group lost bone mass but had an increase in bone marrow fat.
“Hormones could be a target for therapeutics, ‘or the bone marrow fat,’” Bredella said. “That’s something maybe that could be targeted for new therapies that still need to be developed, but at least our study can sort of lay the foundation of something that can be done in the future,” per U.S. News.
Bredella said if you do undergo weight-loss surgery, then you should make it a priority to eat a balanced diet and do weight-bearing exercises that will strengthen your bones.
“Loss of bone strength can have an effect, but proper nutrition and nutritional supplements should be able to prevent long-term problems,” Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon who was not a part of the study, told Medical News Today.
She continued, “Bone strength can be improved and recovered with proper nutrition and nutritional supplements such as calcium and vitamin D. Regular exercise is also important in developing healthy bones.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises teens 13 and older who suffer from severe obesity to seriously consider the benefits of weight-loss surgery.
Dr. Thomas Link, a professor of radiology and coauthor of an editorial published with the study, said that up until age 25 our bodies build up a “reservoir of bone,” and if you’re not building up bone health, you are more likely to have health issues in the future.
Link still advises obese patients get the surgery. “We don’t want these patients not to get their surgeries, but we want them to take very good care of their bone metabolism,” he told U.S. News.