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Why Supplements are a Must Following Bariatric Procedures

The number of people undergoing metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS) procedures globally has steadily increased, as these procedures are increasingly showing success in allowing people to not only lose weight but reverse certain chronic health conditions.1 In fact, in Australia, rates of these surgical procedures have increased somewhere in the vicinity of 60%,2 over the past 5-6 years.

While these surgeries have the potential for great benefit, the long term impact on overall health is deeply reliant on how the patient continues to look after themselves in the years following the surgery. With these procedures comes the very real possibility of an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies as patient’s progress from surgery,3 if they don’t comply with their healthcare provider’s advice.

Nutrient Deficiencies Remain the Problem to Solve

Research has established that as patients progress from surgery, adherence to their healthcare providers’ recommendations drops,4 putting their long term wellbeing at risk. Follow-up visits, routine lab work, and daily nutritional supplementation are expected and necessary behaviors for persons who undergo these types of procedures, to ensure they can deal with the changes to their body induced by these procedures.

While the incidence of post-surgical complications has dropped significantly over the years despite their continued prevalence, the unfortunate reality is that post-op nutrient deficiencies have actually increased.5

Protein powder for weight loss surgery patient

Failure to comply with regular lab work and ongoing nutritional support places patients at risk for nutritional deficiencies that can lead to irreversible conditions.6  Post-operative nutrient deficiencies can impact blood, bone, muscle, and neurological health. Without routine bloodwork, patients may not even know that they are deficient or at risk for becoming deficient — as in many cases nutrient deficiencies can produce vague, generic symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, irritability and poor immune system function which may be mistakenly attributed to other causes.

Stay Ahead of Nutrient Deficiencies

Weight loss surgery female patient

The good news is that nutrient deficiencies can be easily prevented. Research indicates that patients who comply lifelong with standard nutritional recommendations and appropriate supplementation, decrease their risk of developing a nutrition-related deficiency. Compliance improves nutrition outcomes and reduces the risk for conditions that result from long-term nutrient deficiencies. For example, blood, muscle, bone and brain health can be protected by topping up with a few simple nutrients:

Blood health: Anaemia, which is characterised by a red blood cell deficiency in the blood, can cause symptoms of fatigue and low energy, as the body is unable to effectively transport oxygen to cells to create energy. These symptoms are typically induced by insufficient iron, but can often also be caused by deficiencies in B vitamins such as B12 and folate.7

Bone health: Weakened bones, and a tendency toward breaks and fractures, may develop over time as a result of inadequate nutrient intake or malabsorption. Specifically, calcium is a key mineral required for strong, healthy bones, but if an individual’s calcium intake or absorption is insufficient the body will steal if from the bone in favour of other body functions. Ensuring adequate calcium intake from the diet and via supplements, prevents bones from becoming weak and brittle.

Muscle health: Loss of lean muscle is a common post-operative risk due to inadequate protein intake. This not only affects muscle tone and strength, it induces unfavorable changes in body composition (proportion of fat to muscle) and can further affect weight loss. Studies show that patients who consume low protein lose more fat free mass (i.e. muscle mass) compared to those whose intake is adequate.8 It can be challenging to get adequate levels of protein through protein-rich dietary sources alone thanks to small portion-sizes and compromised absorption, in these cases high quality protein powders can help to counteract this inadequacy.

Brain health: Ability to think, remember and control emotions is all too easily impacted by nutritional status. Foggy-headedness, poor memory, irritability and increased feelings of stress may be induced by nutrient deficiencies particularly in persons who have undergone MBS.9 A suite of B vitamins and minerals specific for nerve health such as magnesium, zinc and iodine help to offset these symptoms and keep the brain functioning at its best.

Gastric bypasss female surgery patient

Staying ahead of micronutrient (e.g. vitamins and minerals) and macronutrient (e.g. protein) deficiencies involves a lifelong commitment! Daily supplementation, follow-up care, and micronutrient screening go a long way toward avoiding preventable, devastating complications. Fortunately, supplementation is easy with specialty product formulations, to meet your unique vitamin and mineral requirements and help your body get everything it needs!

References:

  1. Pories WJ. Bariatric Surgery: Risks and Rewards. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008;93(11 Suppl 1):S89–S96.
  2. Monash University, Bariatric Surgery Registry Sixth Annual Report: 2017/18Patel JJ et al. Micronutrient Deficiencies After Bariatric Surgery: An Emphasis on Vitamins and Trace Minerals. Nutr Clin Pract.2017 Aug;32(4):471—480.
  3. Matrana M, Davis W. Vitamin deficiency after gastric bypass surgery: a review. South Med J. 2009;102(10):1025-1031.
  4. Larjani S et al. Preoperative predictors of adherence to multidisciplinary follow-up care postbariatric surgery. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2016;12(2):350-356
  5. Parrott, Julie et al. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Integrated Health Nutritional Guidelines for the Surgical Weight Loss Patient 2016 Update: Micronutrients. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. 2017;13(5):727-741.
  6. Gletsu-Miller N, Wright B. Mineral malnutrition following bariatric surgery. Adv Nutr. 2013;1;4(5):506-517.
  7. Lee YC et al. Predictors of anemia after bariatric surgery using multivariate adaptive regression splines. Hepatogastroenterology. 2012;59(117):1378-1380.
  8. Moize, V et al. Protein intake and lean tissue mass retention following bariatric surgery. Clin Nutr Edinb Scotl. 2013;32(4):550-555.
  9. Kumar N. Neurologic complications of bariatric surgery. Continuum (Minneap Minn).2014;20(3 Neurology of Systemic Disease):580-597.