Weight Loss Surgery Changes How the Gut Senses Food


Patterns of digestion in the gut and the way it senses food are altered following weight loss surgery, according to a new study.

These changes lead to increased insulin production, which improves levels of blood glucose in people who had diabetes before their surgery.

Food and nutrients

Researchers involved in the study, the results of which were published in the journal Cell Reports, have discovered the mechanisms behind the changes in the way the gut senses food and nutrients following weight loss (bariatric) surgery, and how this helps people with obesity and diabetes.

They found that after surgery, patterns of digestion are altered and this triggers production of higher levels of gut hormones, in particular glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which leads to higher insulin production.

Improvement in diabetes

For people who have diabetes and have weight loss surgery to treat obesity, after their surgery their diabetes is often found to significantly improve. In those who don’t have diabetes before weight loss surgery, they can find they have dips in their sugar levels, which can be addressed by changing their eating habits.  

This research looked at why these changes happen. The researchers studied five people having weight loss surgery. They gave them a compound that blocks the action of GLP-1, and analysed how this impacted the production of insulin.

Digestion lower in the gut

They found that before surgery, food is digested and absorbed high up in the gut. After surgery, this digestion happens lower down in the gut, because of the new gut arrangement. Most GLP-1 is released lower down the gut, and so this explains the increase in GLP-1 after weight loss surgery.

The lead author, Fiona Gribble, explained: “If you digest and absorb your nutrients a bit lower down, you consequently stimulate the release of much more GLP-1.

“This means that the reason for higher GLP-1 secretion is not because the surgery changes the hormone production by the gut, but it is because nutrient digestion and absorption happens in a different place in the gut.”

Impact of weight loss surgery

The researchers hope that this study will help to contribute to the development of understanding of how diabetes is impacted by weight loss surgery, and in the potential development of therapy that mimics the rapid weight loss in bariatric surgery.


This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

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