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Weight Loss by Low-Calorie Diet Versus Gastric Bypass Surgery in People With Diabetes Results in Divergent Brain Activation Patterns: A Functional MRI Study

posted on 22.06.2021, 18:25 by Victoria Salem, Lysia Demetriou, Preeshila Behary, Kleopatra Alexiadou, Samantha Scholtz, George Tharakan, Alexander D. Miras, Sanjay Purkayastha, Ahmed R. Ahmed, Stephen R. Bloom, Matthew B. Wall, Waljit S. Dhillo, Tricia M-M. Tan
Objective: Weight loss achieved with very low-calorie diets (VLCD) can produce remission of Type 2 diabetes (T2D), but weight regain very often occurs with reintroduction of higher calorie intakes. In contrast, bariatric surgery produces clinically significant and durable weight loss, with diabetes remission that translates into reductions in mortality. We hypothesised that in patients living with obesity and pre-diabetes/T2D, longitudinal changes in brain activity in response to food cues as measured using functional MRI would explain this difference. Methods: 16 participants underwent gastric bypass surgery and 19 matched participants undertook a very low calorie (meal replacement) diet for 4 weeks. Brain responses to food cues and resting state functional connectivity was assessed with functional MRI pre- and post-intervention and compared across groups. Results: We show that RYGB results in three divergent brain responses in comparison to VLCD-induced weight loss: (i) VLCD resulted in increased brain reward centre food cue responsiveness whereas in RYGB this was reduced; (ii) VLCD resulted in higher neural activation of cognitive control regions in response to food cues, associated with exercising increased cognitive restraint over eating, whereas RYGB did not; (iii) a homeostatic appetitive system (centred on the hypothalamus) is better engaged following RYGB-induced weight loss than VLCD. Conclusion: Taken together these findings point to divergent brain responses to different methods of weight loss in patients with diabetes, which may explain weight regain after a short-term VLCD in contrast with the enduring weight loss after RYGB.


The study was funded by the MRC Experimental Challenge Grant (MR/K02115X/1) and other aspects of the study were supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) Funding Scheme. V.S. is the recipient of a Diabetes UK Harry Keen Clinician Scientist Fellowship. W.S.D. is funded by an NIHR Professorship (RP-2014–05–001). T.M-M.T. is funded by the NIHR and the JP Moulton Charitable Foundation. The research study was also supported by the Imperial NIHR Clinical Research Facility. The Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction is funded by grants from the MRC and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and is supported by the NIHR Imperial BRC Funding Scheme. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the abovementioned funders, the UK National Health Service (NHS), the NIHR, or the UK Department of Health.