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How Weight Loss Helps the Heart
Date:8/11/2009

Study found it reversed structural abnormalities seen among the obese

TUESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Losing a lot of weight rejuvenates the physical structure of the heart, and it makes no difference whether the weight is lost by surgery or by dieting, a new British study shows.

The heart muscles of people who started with a body mass index (BMI) averaging 40 -- a BMI of 30 is the usual marker of obesity -- became noticeably thinner and more efficient when they brought their BMI down to 32.2 in a single year, according to a report in the Aug. 18 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"Both diet and bariatric surgery led to comparable, significant decreases" in heart structure abnormalities and malfunction, the University of Oxford researchers reported.

Bariatric surgery is designed to induce weight loss by reducing the amount of food people can eat, the amount of food they can metabolize or both.

Weight loss averaging 21 kilograms (about 45 pounds), achieved by the 37 obese people in the study, "is typically what is seen after bariatric surgery," said Dr. Philip R. Schauer, director of the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric and Metabolic Institute.

Noting that many of the obese people lost those kilograms by eating less, Schauer called it "quite unusual for someone to diet with that effect. These were a very special subset."

And the problem with weight loss by diet is that "weight regain is the norm, whereas with bariatric surgery there is ample evidence that the weight loss is maintained," Schauer said.

The Oxford researchers used cardiac MRI, a special X-ray technique, to obtain detailed information on the structure of the hearts not only of the 37 obese participants but also of 20 normal-weight volunteers, whose average BMI was 21. They found that the walls of the left and right ventricles, the blood-pumping chambers of the heart, were significant
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