Bariatric Surgery Can Improve Cholesterol Profile in Women Within One Year

According to a team of scientists from Tufts University, the University of California-Davis and Oregon Health and Sciences Center, weight loss after bariatric surgery can improve cholesterol levels in obese women within one year, decreasing their risk for cardiovascular disease. Results of the research were published in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends bariatric surgery for those people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and above or for those with a BMI of 35 to 39.9 who have obesity related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, severe sleep apnea and/or high blood pressure when all other attempts have failed.  Several research studies have revealed that bariatric surgery can improve other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and risks for heart disease as well as lowering death rates from 40 percent to 23 percent.

  • Obesity is directly correlated with blood lipid and cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • A lipoprotein profile is a blood test that is done to measure the levels of cholesterol in the blood, namely, high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol), low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol), total cholesterol as well as triglycerides.
  • Lipoproteins are the carrier molecules, which help these insoluble cholesterol forms to get transported within the blood stream.  LDL cholesterol can build up on the insides of the artery walls causing blockages that can lead to heart attack and stroke.  HDL cholesterol helps prevent arteries from becoming clogged.
  • There were 19 obese participants who were going to undergo gastric bypass surgery who volunteered for the study.  Their lipid levels were taken prior to gastric by-pass surgery and one year after surgery.  Samples were also collected from an equal number of healthy weight females for comparison results.
  • Prior to the surgery, levels of triglycerides and insulin were higher in the obese women then in the healthy weight females and HDL or the “good” cholesterol was significantly lower in the obese women then in the healthy weight women.
  • One year after surgery when these parameters were again measured, significant and positive improvements were noticed.  These improvements included reductions in body mass index, body fat, levels of triglycerides and LDL/HDL ratio.
  • An important observation of the study was that as HDL levels improved, the body’s ability to stabilize blood sugar levels also improved.  This observation further provided evidence to the idea that obesity (through lipid regulation) and type 2 diabetes (through glucose regulation) are closely related.


This study focused on women only, not men, and only used a small sampling.  The study also did not follow diet and lifestyle habits both before and after surgery.  However, the study does indicate that bariatric surgery can help to improve blood lipid levels that are highly associated with cardiovascular health as well as improve body weight, fat mass and insulin sensitivity.   Although bariatric surgery does seem to have benefits there are also known risks involved.  All efforts should be made to lose weight through diet, exercise and lifestyle change before taking on this risk.  Bariatric surgery is not considered a quick fix and even if a person undergoes this surgery, diet, exercise and lifestyle change need to be followed for life in order to achieve long-term success and better health.


Cholesterol levels: What numbers you should aim for:

Significant weight-loss from surgery decreases risk for cardiovascular disease in women:

Metabolic Syndrome:

Durable improvement in lipid levels after gastric bypass surgery:

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