Volume 11, Issue 82 September 26, 2014
Can bariatric surgery actually
extend your life?
As an astute reader of Second Opinion, you are probably aware of telomeres. They are the ends of our chromosomes. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres in that cell become shorter. The more often your cells divide, the shorter your telomeres are.

Many scientists believe that the chromosomal damage that happens as the telomeres become shorter is what is responsible for the deterioration that happens to us as we get older. That's because the older a person gets the more often their cells will have divided, and the shorter their telomeres will be.

So what if there was a way to prevent the shortening? Or better yet, what if there was a way to actually increase your telomere length? An astounding new study says there is. And here's the best part. It's free and easy!

The new study looked at the remarkable connection between fat cells and telomere length. The lead author of the study is John M. Morton, MD. Dr Morton is the director of bariatric (weight loss) surgery at Stanford University. He and his colleagues presented their findings at the first annual joint meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society this past March. They studied 55 patients with an average age of 48.5 years. All of these patients were obese and underwent gastric bypass for weight loss. But Dr. Morton did something very interesting with these patients.

Before their surgery and one year after surgery, he measured the telomere length of the patients. The results are almost too good to believe. Normally telomeres lose about 20-40 base pairs in a year. But in the case of these patients, that did not happen. Even after one year, the telomere lengths remained essentially the same. But as significant as that is, it's not the most extraordinary finding in the study.

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Fat cells make inflammation. And as the body becomes more inflamed, a marker in the blood called CRP (C-reactive protein) becomes elevated. You can easily have this protein measured in your blood because it is a test that every lab can do. The healthy range for CRP is less than 0.8 mg/L. People with excessive fat often have higher CRP readings because of the increased inflammation in their bodies. And that's where Dr. Morton's study really gets interesting.

Besides measuring telomeres before and after his patients' weight loss, he also measured their CRP levels. Many of his patients had an initial CRP over 7. That's almost 900% over the healthy range. The telomeres in these patients not only did not get shorter. They actually got longer — 2.83% longer! Folks, that is amazing. I have heard of therapies that prevent telomere shortening but I have never heard of any therapy that will increase telomere length. And now we have it. Just lose your excess weight.

Studies have already shown that people with shorter telomeres have higher rates of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. And, not surprisingly, they also have shorter life spans. According to Dr. Morton, "This is the first study to demonstrate that weight loss leads to decreased aging by increasing telomere length." Simply losing weight is the best way to extend your life.

Yours for better health,

Bariatric Surgery May Stunt Aging Mechanism by Christina Frangou. www.anesthesiologynews.com. last accessed July 26, 2014.

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