Weight Loss Surgery May Help With Depression

A new study has found a link between weight loss surgery and an improvement in mental health.

Depression is a complicated ailment that can be managed or remedied through lifestyle changes, counseling, medications, or all the above. The source of depression is even more varied, but oftentimes can be traced back to body image issues.

While experts have known of the strong link between obesity and depression for quite some time, the researchers from UCLA say that what was not so well-known was how prevalent the association is.

Researchers performed a meta-analysis, gathering data from 68 papers. Of those, 59 involving 65,363 patients examined the prevalence of mental health conditions prior to bariatric surgery; 27 of them with 50,182 patients looked at the link between mental health conditions prior to the study and the post-surgery outcomes.

What they found was that 19 percent of the patients who were preparing for surgery suffered from depression, 17 percent from binge eating, two to three times that of the general population. They also found that these preexisting conditions did not have any bearing on the weight loss rates after surgery.

“I think there’s a general idea that mental health conditions might preclude patients from having bariatric surgery, because they’re either not very good surgical candidates or they won’t stand to benefit,” said lead author Dr. Aaron Dawes, a surgical resident at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “We didn’t find that in the evidence. We really found no strong evidence that suggests that mental health conditions limit the weight loss after surgery.”

But they also found evidence of lower rates of depression in those who had weight loss surgery.

While the researchers aren’t suggesting that weight loss surgery should be a treatment option for depression, it may be seen as an additional benefit.

“It may help us think about mental health conditions in this population kind of like physical health conditions, in that they may be obesity-related comorbidities,” Dawes said. “So just as we see diabetes or sleep apnea improve, to the extent that some of these conditions are really driven by the obesity, the surgery may improve some of the mental conditions as well.”

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