March 31, 2008 / 10:04 PM / 12 years ago

Weight loss reverses heart changes in obese teens

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Severely obese adolescents who undergo weight-loss surgery show substantial improvements subsequently in the size and functioning of their hearts, new findings indicate.

In fact, reversal of heart abnormalities appears to be more likely in teenagers than in similar adults, Dr. Holly M. Ippisch and her associates report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“This might be an argument for earlier intervention at younger ages in severely obese young people,” the investigators suggest.

Ippisch’s team reviewed the outcomes of 38 patients aged 13 to 19 years who underwent gastric bypass surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. Their weight prior to surgery averaged 175 kg or about 385 pounds, and the average body mass index (BMI) was 60.

Within the following year, average weight dropped to 116 kg (255 pounds) and the average BMI fell to 40.

Although most patients were still over their ideal body weight, the group’s average heart rate and blood pressure declined, probably reflecting the reduced workload placed on the heart.

Being severely overweight leads eventually to enlargement of the heart, especially the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. Before surgery, only 36 percent of the group had a normal-size left ventricle; after surgery, this rose to 79 percent.

Ultrasound also showed sizable reductions in the thickness of the walls of the heart, something that has not been observed in adult gastric-bypass patients, the investigators say.

Despite these promising results in teens, the team concludes that long-term follow-up is required to see if the improvements persist, and whether they translate into long-term reduction in the odds of developing heart disease as adults.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, April 8, 2008.

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