Effects of bariatric surgery on DNA methylation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2020 Jan;16(1):128-136. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2019.09.075. Epub 2019 Oct 11.


Background: DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism through which environmental factors, including obesity, influence health. Obesity is a major modifiable risk factor for many common diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Obesity-induced metabolic stress and inflammation are key mechanisms that affect disease risk and that may result from changes in methylation of metabolic and inflammatory genes.

Objectives: This review aims to report the effects of weight loss induced by bariatric surgery (BS) on DNA methylation in adults with obesity focusing on changes in metabolic and inflammatory genes.

Methods: A systematic review was performed using MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus, to identify studies in adult humans that reported DNA methylation after BS.

Results: Of 15,996 screened titles, 15 intervention studies were identified, all of which reported significantly lower body mass index postsurgery. DNA methylation was assessed in 5 different tissues (blood = 7 studies, adipose tissues = 4, skeletal muscle = 2, liver, and spermatozoa). Twelve studies reported significant changes in DNA methylation after BS. Meta-analysis showed that BS increased methylation of PDK4 loci in skeletal muscle and blood in 2 studies, while the effects of BS on IL6 methylation levels in blood were inconsistent. BS had no overall effect on LINE1 or PPARGC1 methylation.

Conclusion: The current evidence supports the reversibility of DNA methylation at specific loci in response to BS-induced weight loss. These changes are consistent with improved metabolic and inflammatory profiles of patients after BS. However, the evidence regarding the effects of BS on DNA methylation in humans is limited and inconsistent, which makes it difficult to combine and compare data across studies.

Keywords: Bariatric surgery; DNA methylation; Inflammation; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adult
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • DNA / analysis
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Male
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Weight Loss / genetics


  • DNA