In Chicago, Illinois a study’s findings show that even two years after weight loss surgery, patients are still dealing with bone loss density, even after they are done losing weight. The findings of this study appeared at the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society meeting in 2014. It included results of the two-year study that looked at the bone density loss of patients immediately after bariatric surgery, and how much the density was two years later when their weight was stabilized.

The Problem with Bone Density Loss

Obese individuals do tend to have a higher bone density than those who are underweight, but getting weight loss surgery is still a risk for losing bone density. After having gastric bypass surgery, patients have a higher risk of bone fragility with is indicated by losing bone mineral density. This is usually noticed within a year of having the weight loss surgery. Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and headed by Elaine Yu, MD received funding from the National Institutes of Health to look at the bone density issue and how it could potentially be resolved following weight loss surgery, as well as how long the problem persisted for. With the loss of bone density, these patients are at a higher risk for breaks or fractures of the bone.

The Study

During this study, there were 50 people who were obese, including 30 people in the surgery group who had bariatric surgery, and 20 in the control group who lost through other means, including diet and exercise. All of the participants of the study were similar in body mass index, sex, and age. Following surgery, every patient received the same supplements with high-dose vitamin D and calcium. This was the best way to determine what the supposed bone loss density was compared to the control group and those who had bariatric surgery.

What Were the Results?

The study lasted for two years as researchers wanted to know if the bone density problem persisted for this long. There was a 5-7 percent drop in bone density near the spine and near the hip, it was 7-10 percent lower as compared with the control group. They believe part of this was because after bariatric surgery, the patients have lack of markers for bone resorption, which breaks down old bone, and may impact overall bone loss density. Even though patients were not losing more weight after the first year of surgery, which is common with bariatric surgery patients, the bone density loss was still remaining steady, regardless of the supplements, they were taking. They don’t believe the bone loss is related to the weight loss, but the surgery itself.

How is Bone Density Measured?

Bone mineral density is typically measured through DXA or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. However, some obese individuals offer inaccurate results when using this method of measuring the bone density. Instead, researchers for this study used a three-dimensional method of computed tomography, which is known as a quantitative CT.

Even with the higher risk of bone density loss, Yu still believes weight loss surgery to be highly beneficial for the physical health of obese patients. The benefits far outweigh this disadvantage, with very few risks and so many health benefits. Patients are avoiding arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and improving their emotional state as well. She doesn’t believe this study should keep patients from going through with the surgery, but further, encourage them to eat right and take the proper vitamins after the surgery to avoid even more bone density loss issues.