Pre-Surgery Meals Can Affect Recovery

Monday, 25 Mar 2013 05:37 PM

By Nick Tate

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If you’re going for surgery, new research suggests what you eat beforehand can have a notable impact on your recovery.

The study, by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, suggests eating a high-fat in the weeks before surgery can complicate recovery, while a low-calorie diet may help you get back on your feet quicker.

The reason: Fat tissue is always traumatized during major surgery and that greatly impacts the chemicals in fat tissue that affect nearby and distant organs in the body.

"Surgeons have learned that generally minimizing trauma accelerates patient recovery from surgery," noted C. Keith Ozaki, M.D., director of Vascular Surgery Research at the hospital, who led the study published in the journal Surgery. "While we do this well for specific organs such as the heart, blood vessels, liver, and so forth, we historically have paid little attention to the fat that we cut through to expose these organs.

“Our findings challenge us all to learn more about how fat responds to trauma, what factors impact this response, and how fat's response is linked to the outcome of individual patients."

Ozaki’s findings are based on studies of mice that found those fed a typical Western, high-fat diet before undergoing a surgical operation had an “imbalanced response” and recovery. But restricting food intake to a lower-fat diet just a few weeks before surgery reduced the imbalance back toward a more normal response and recovery, the results showed.

In effect, Ozaki said restricting calorie intake before surgery changed how the fat tissue in the mice responded to typical trauma that usually occurs during an operation.

In an accompanying article, James Mitchell — a collaborator on the study and an assistant professor of Genetics and Complex Diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health — said the findings suggest restricting diet in humans before surgery likely decreases the incidence and severity of surgical complications brought on by inflammation and other stressors.

Simply cutting out certain dietary elements may be a feasible, inexpensive, and effective way of protecting the body against stress from an operation, particular for patients undergoing procedures for injuries, heart attack, and stroke.

"The relationship between surgical outcomes and obesity has always been complex," said Ozaki. "Our results and those of others highlight that the quality of your fat tissues appears to be important, along with the total amount of body fat when it comes to the body's response to an operation."

The study funded, in party, by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health; American Heart Association.


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