Vitamins and Minerals and the Bariatric Surgery Patient
Vitamins and minerals fall into a category called micronutrients. They function in our body as co-factors and enzymes that are necessary to complete every process in our bodies from our head to our toes. Unlike macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats), they do not provide calories. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for healthy vision, cell growth and development, healthy skin, bones and teeth, immunity, wound healing, metabolism of nutrients, healthy brain and nerve function, normal heart rhythm and function, reproduction and much more! (1). Vitamins and minerals are found throughout all the food groups in a variety of foods and beverages. They are abundantly found in fruits and vegetables of all colors and sizes, protein sources like chicken, eggs and beans, dairy products like milk and cheese and in a variety of whole grains.
Vitamins and minerals play an important role in weight control and management! Micronutrients assist in many of the processes that regulate appetite and hunger hormones, metabolic rate, nutrient absorption and storage, glucose homeostasis and more! Therefor, adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is crucial for our body to appropriately use the nutrients we consume, a healthy and active metabolism, hunger control and ultimately optimal weight loss and long-term weight maintenance (1).
So how does vitamin and mineral supplementation affect the bariatric surgery patient? Before surgery vitamin and mineral supplementation is recommended to help boost your nutritional status. Your nutritional status prior to surgery is a good indicator of your healing process after surgery. The healthier you are prior to surgery the stronger your immune system and more efficient your wounds will heal and the shorter the recovery time (2).
After surgery, patients have an increased need for vitamin/mineral supplementation due to one of the three following procedural categories: restrictive, mal-absorptive or mixed procedures. Restrictive procedures limit the amount of food a person can consume. Mal-absorptive procedures limit the amount of calories you absorb and mixed procedures are a combination of both. All of the procedures restrict or limit food you consume and/or absorb and therefor restrict or limit the amount of micronutrients you consume and/or absorb. Patients who do not take their bariatric specific vitamins as prescribed will develop vitamin/mineral deficiencies. These deficiencies can lead to, but are not limited to, fatigue, weakness, headache, calf and leg pain, loss of night vision, dry skin and nails, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, poor immune function, osteoporosis, neurological damage, neuropathy and even death (1).
In conclusion, patients who have bariatric surgery must take bariatric specific vitamins as prescribed before surgery and for the rest of their lives after surgery to promote health, healing, weight loss and weight maintenance and to prevent vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies.
Jennifer Jarrett Clark MS, RD, LDN
1. Source: Aills et al. ASMBS Allied Health Nutritional Guidelines for the Surgical Weight Loss Patient. Surgery for the Obesity and Related Diseases 8 (2008)
2. Source: Jacques, Jacqueline. Micronutrition for the Weight Loss Surgery Patient. Matrix Medical Communities :Edgmont, PA;1996