The effects of bariatric surgery on clinical profile, DNA methylation, and ageing in severely obese patients

Eliza Fraszczyk, Mirjam Luijten, Annemieke M. W. Spijkerman, Harold Snieder, Paul F. K. Wackers, Vincent W. Bloks, Carolina F. Nicoletti, Carla B. Nonino, Ana B. Crujeiras, Wim A. Buurman, Jan Willem Greve, Sander S. Rensen, Bruce H. R. Wolffenbuttel, Jana V. van Vliet-Ostaptchouk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Severe obesity is a growing, worldwide burden and conventional therapies including radical change of diet and/or increased physical activity have limited results. Bariatric surgery has been proposed as an alternative therapy showing promising results. It leads to substantial weight loss and improvement of comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes. Increased adiposity is associated with changes in epigenetic profile, including DNA methylation. We investigated the effect of bariatric surgery on clinical profile, DNA methylation, and biological age estimated using Horvath's epigenetic clock. Results To determine the impact of bariatric surgery and subsequent weight loss on clinical traits, a cohort of 40 severely obese individuals (BMI = 30-73 kg/m(2)) was examined at the time of surgery and at three follow-up visits, i.e., 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. The majority of the individuals were women (65%) and the mean age at surgery was 45.1 +/- 8.1 years. We observed a significant decrease over time in BMI, fasting glucose, HbA1c, HOMA-IR, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and free fatty acids levels, and a significant small increase in HDL levels (all p values <0.05). Epigenome-wide association analysis revealed 4857 differentially methylated CpG sites 12 months after surgery (at Bonferroni-corrected p value <1.09 x 10(-7)). Including BMI change in the model decreased the number of significantly differentially methylated CpG sites by 51%. Gene set enrichment analysis identified overrepresentation of multiple processes including regulation of transcription, RNA metabolic, and biosynthetic processes in the cell. Bariatric surgery in severely obese patients resulted in a decrease in both biological age and epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) (mean = - 0.92, p value = 0.039). Conclusions Our study shows that bariatric surgery leads to substantial BMI decrease and improvement of clinical outcomes observed 12 months after surgery. These changes explained part of the association between bariatric surgery and DNA methylation. We also observed a small, but significant improvement of biological age. These epigenetic changes may be modifiable by environmental lifestyle factors and could be used as potential biomarkers for obesity and in the future for obesity related comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Number of pages12
JournalClinical epigenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020


  • Obesity
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Morbid obesity
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Epigenetic clock
  • Biological age
  • EWAS
  • RISK
  • AGE

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