Ask Dr. Dirk: Will Weight Loss Surgery Reduce My Risk Of Alzheimer’s?


Weight loss surgery comes with hundreds of benefits for people who want to get healthier by taking off some weight. In addition to reducing physical strain on your body, weight loss surgery can improve diabetes, high blood pressure and a host of other chronic, quality-of-life reducing illnesses. According to a new study, we may soon be able to add a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease to the long list of weight loss surgery benefits.

The study, which observed how brain activity was impacted after weight loss surgery, was the first of its kind. Researchers at Brazil’s University of San Paolo found that women who had undergone the surgery saw improvements in a number of brain functions, including organization and planning. If you’re a little forgetful and have trouble planning, weight loss surgery may have significant benefits beyond the waistline.

More importantly, though, researchers also noticed that obesity seemed to have an effect on the part of the brain that is responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Once patients lost the weight after surgery, the effects were diminished or eliminated completely. This likely has something to do with the way that the body metabolizes sugar, which is typically restored to healthier-than-before levels after weight loss surgery.

While these findings may indicate hope for weight loss surgery patients in the future, Dr. Dirk and Northstar Healthcare are holding out for more research. “While this is interesting news, it is still untested,” says Dr. Dirk. “No one can say whether Alzheimer’s can be avoided or cured.” The study’s focus on the way that bodily changes to the metabolism of sugar can help avoid Alzheimer’s is certainly worth studying, but there is no concrete evidence that there is much of a link.

“Because Alzheimer’s disease strikes later in life, it is very difficult to assess what changes we engage in now will affect us when we hit 60 or 80,” explains Dr. Dirk. That being said, Dr. Dirk is convinced that patients should do everything possible to maintain a healthy weight, with or without weight loss surgery. As part of an active and healthy lifestyle, exercise, good vitamins and a balanced diet will help make your entire body more healthy, not just the brain.

The jury is still out on whether or not weight loss surgery will reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Dirk (and the medical community at large) is convinced that a healthy lifestyle is the key to avoiding any chronic disease, Alzheimer’s included. For patients suffering from obesity, weight loss surgery can be the key that unlocks the door to a happy, healthy and long life.