Bariatric Surgery Before Pregnancy Benefits Children’s Health

Bariatric surgery does more than improve the health of women who undergo it: weight loss surgery makes their future children healthier, too. A group of Canadian researchers found that the children of obese women who have bariatric surgery are less likely to suffer from risk factors leading to cardiovascular disease than children of obese women who don’t have the surgery.

According to the researchers, children born to women who had bariatric surgery are less likely to be obese and are more likely to have better insulin resistance. In addition, they are likely to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

The research was conducted by the Functional Food Institute at Laval University in Québec City, Canada.

It may seem surprising that bodily changes resulting from bariatric surgery have an impact on the children of a woman who undergoes it, but the researchers claim their findings demonstrate that obesity risk factors can be controlled. By eliminating a woman’s obesity, bariatric surgery positively impacts the health of her children.

Dr. Beth Abramson, the spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, made it clear that these findings were important. Abramson said, in a release, “We know our genetic makeup influences our children’s risks — but so can our environment…This study shows that external factors also influence our risk for heart disease — and that of our offspring — by switching genes on or off in our DNA, providing a glimpse as to why this occurs.”

The Laval University researchers analyzed the DNA of 50 children born to 20 different mothers. Half of the children studied were born before their mothers had weight-loss surgery; half of them were born afterward.

The researchers discovered, to their surprise, that methylation levels differed significantly between the children born to mothers before bypass surgery and those born after. The finding is key, because methyl groups act as the “on” and “off” switches for our genes. They activate the genes in our genetic sequences through a process called methylation. The study results indicate that when a mother has weight loss surgery prior to conceiving, the physiological changes help regulate the methylation process in her children, making them less susceptible to obesity and obesity-related illnesses.