Written By: Maria Vardapetyan, Eric Baghdasaryan, Osheen Abnous
Vitamins are chemicals that facilitate many processes in the human body such as blood clot formation, good vision, fight infections etc. There are two classes of vitamins. Water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water. This makes it possible for them to be absorbed through all mucous membranes. Fat soluble vitamins on the other hand do not dissolve or pass through mucous membranes. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the intestine along with fats in the diet. These vitamins have the ability to be stored in the fat tissues of the human body. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and have to be taken in daily with the food and dietary supplements. Solubility of a vitamin is not a function of its physical state. There are fat soluble vitamins that have a liquid form and almost all of the water soluble vitamins come in form of pills or powders.
In this article, we are going to focus on fat soluble vitamins. They are all complex molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in different arrangements (see figures 1, 2, 3 and 4). These fat soluble vitamins are vitamin A, D, E and K.
Vitamin A has a major role in vision, immune function, cell growth, and maintenance of organs such as heart, kidneys, lungs, etc. It plays a pivotal role in the health of our eyes, specifically the retina1. Rhodopsin protein, a major protein that has the leading role in the process of vision, is found in the retina where it allows us to perceive light. This protein requires vitamin A to function properly. Without vitamin A, rhodopsin cannot sense light and thus cannot initiate the process by which vision occurs.
Figure 1: Chemical structure of Vitamin A molecule
Vitamin D regulates different chemical reactions that are associated with bones, muscles, and the immune system. The simplified way it does this regulation is it helps absorb calcium from dietary nutrients which in turn strengthens the bones, helps neurons exchange signals to move muscles and helps the immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria2.
Figure 2: Chemical structure of Vitamin D molecule
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that neutralize toxic byproducts of many chemical reactions in the human body. When food is consumed and digested, the human body converts it into energy. As a result of metabolism free radicals (toxic byproducts) are formed and are neutralized with the help of vitamin E. In addition, free radicals are also in the environment. Furthermore, vitamin E stimulates the immune system to fight against bacteria and viruses3.
Figure 3: Chemical structure of Vitamin E molecule
Vitamin K can be obtained from food and dietary supplements. There are two forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone (Vitamin K1), which is found in spinach, kale and other greens and menaquinone-4 (Vitamin K2), which is found in animal products. Vitamin K1 is involved in blood clotting, and Vitamin K2 is involved in bone tissue building. Vitamin K1 is the main Vitamin K in human diet (75-90% of all vitamin K consumed), however, it is poorly absorbed in the body4,5.
Figure 4: Chemical structures of Vitamin K1 and K2 molecules
Absorption of fat soluble vitamins
Polarity describes the inherent charge(positive or negative) or lack of charge for any given substance or molecule. Molecules that are charged are referred to as “polar”, while those that lack charge are “nonpolar”. When discussing solubility, it is important to remember the phrase “like dissolves like”. That means polar (charged) substances like to interact with a polar environment like water, since water contains a slight negative charge. Hence, charged substances are water-soluble. Nonpolar substances on the other hand readily interact with nonpolar environments such as fat, which contains no charge. Therefore, molecules that lack a charge such as vitamins A, D, E, and K are referred to as fat soluble.
Due to their water fearing nature, these fat soluble vitamins cannot simply be absorbed directly into the bloodstream (which is mostly water) like the sugars and amino acids in our diet. As their name suggests, these fat soluble vitamins like to be embedded in fatty droplets, which facilitate their absorption in the following way. Fat soluble vitamins group together with other fat molecules to form fatty droplets, effectively reducing the amount of interaction with the watery environment of the intestines. Therefore, without an adequate amount of fat in your diet, your body is unable to effectively absorb these fat-soluble vitamins. This may be true in an intact anatomy, however, post weight loss surgical patients can not increase their fat soluble vitamin levels by increasing their fat intake. This is due to the fact that a high fat diet causes excessive bowel movement which in turn washes away any vitamins taken by mouth. DS limits fat absorption (thus the great weight loss) which can cause vitamin A and D deficiency that can not be easily corrected with oral supplementation.
As mentioned before, fat soluble vitamins are hydrophobic and nonpolar, which means they are also fat loving or lipophilic. Excess fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver and fat tissue. Therefore, these vitamins do not need to be eaten every single day since stores of these vitamins can sustain a person for some time. It may take several weeks or months for our body to deplete these stores of fat soluble vitamins which is why it generally takes a longer amount of time for fat soluble vitamin deficiencies to manifest themselves. The ability to store these fat soluble vitamins in tissues can also lead to vitamin toxicity – marked by an excess of vitamin stores in our body.
Clinical manifestations of A, D, E, K deficiency
|Vitamin||Clinical Deficiency manifestations|
|Vitamin A||Vision Problems
Dryness of the eye
|Vitamin D||Softening and weakening of the bones
Bone shape distortion
Bowed legs (generally in children)
|Vitamin E||Damage to red blood cells
Tissue/organ damage due to inability to supply enough blood
Nervous tissue malfunction
|Vitamin K1||Excessive bruising
Increased bleeding time
Small blood clots under nails
Increased bleeding in mucous membrane
|Vitamin K2||Weak bones
Increased plaque deposits along gumline
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin E. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Vitamin K. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-k/. Published July 2, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2020.
- Beulens JWJ, Booth SL, van den Heuvel EGHM, Stoecklin E, Baka A, Vermeer C. The role of menaquinones (vitamin K₂) in human health. The British journal of nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23590754. Published October 2013. Accessed April 26, 2020.
It’s important to understand Vitamin D metabolism and deficiency potential following weight loss surgery Vitamins after DS need to be followed via laboratory blood studies. There are basic vitamin needs but individual needs should be based on medical history, genetics, alimentary limb length, common channel length and other surgical and physiologic determinations. Vitamins after DS are a life long commitment as well as protein needs and hydration. Duodenal Switch is a malabsorptive procedure which requires at least yearly laboratory blood studies, daily vitamins/minerals, daily high protein and daily hydration intake. There is not an all in one vitamin that is adequate for a DS patient or tailored to your individual needs. (example: you may need more Vitamin D and less Vitamin A if you are taking a all-in-one vitamin you can’t get more of one and less of another vitamin)
DS patients are recommended to take Dry forms (water miscible form) of Vitamin A, D3, E, K due to the fat malabsorption after DS. Dry formulations by Biotech are processed so they can be absorbed by a water soluble method after the DS procedure. Vitamin D seems to be the vitamin that can become deficient the easiest, followed by Vitamin A. Take these vitamins away from dietary fat.
In some cases, patients may need injectable Vitamin A or D to improve vitamin levels.
Many DS surgeon’s do not recommend Children’s vitamins or chewable vitamins unless there is a specific reason or need for them.
DS Surgeon Blog on Vitamin D:
Webinar on Vitamin D metabolism:
Medications that effect Bone health:
This does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or prescribing. It is simply a compiled list of gathered information. If you are in doubt or have questions please contact your medical healthcare professional.
As I was looking over old archives, I came across the following pictures that were taken years ago. These were photographs taken to demonstrate the technique for the construction of the anastomosis of the biliopancreatic channel and alimentary channel of the Duodenal Switch.
The steps of doing the stapled anastomosis of the Duodenal Switch is generally unchanged during the laparoscopic approach to the procedure.
The stitches are placed to secure the bowel together. Two small openings are made in each limb of the bowel to be stapled together (the biliopancreatic limb on the bottom and the alimentary on the top of the image).
It is important to also align the bowel in the same peristalsis direction. This means that the contraction and the relaxation motion of the bowel should all point in the same direction. This should reduce the risk of complications such as intussusception.
When the stapler is fired in opposite direction, a very wide anastomosis is created.
Once the anastomosis is created, then the last staple is used to close the opening that was made. This staple line is perpendicular to the direction of the anastomosis to avoid making the opening narrow.
Recently there has been some research and concern regarding sunscreen and the chemicals within them. This has led to findings that can be concerning but that need further research.
Post weight loss surgical patients, and in general patients who suffer with obesity, before or after weight loss surgery, have low vitamin D level. This may be caused by a number of factors. One such factor may be the reluctance to get skin exposed to sunlight in order for the bodies natural Vitamin D pathways functioning.
The recommendations are for daily exposure to sun. This not only is critical to the vitamin D metabolic pathways, but also help with bone health, immune function, mood, counteracting depression.
In a recently published online article, concerns were raised that some of the ingredients of some of few sunscreens are absorbed in the blood stream. This is a small study, and as the results indicates, it is not recommending to stop using the sun screens. Be aware of your sun exposure, timing exposure, and the ingredients in your sunscreen.
You can find past blog posts on Vitamin D, Bone health, etc here
Treatment options should be approached is a global and systemic fashion. It is critical that the nutritional status is at its best possible and optimized for important healthy bone vitamins and minerals. Low protein needs to be corrected. Special attention should be given to nutrients, minerals and vitamins. These include Protein, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K1/K2to name a few.
Healthy bones require ongoing and routine force in the form of exercise to remain health. Just as exercise improves muscle strength, it also improves bone health. Exercise is also critical in improving bone structure and density. Ideally, exercise should be weight bearing and resistance. Examples include: hiking, walking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing. Resistance type exercise is weight lifting and resistance bands. These exercise work by creating a pull or force on the bone either by gravity, movement or weight. Always check with your physician before beginning an exercise routine, start slowly and building up to longer periods of time. The ideal goal would be at least 30 minutes a day, every day, if you are able.
We frequently see patients immediately started on osteoporosis medications without checking or improving some of the nutritional markers noted above or without looking at exercise history. In some case, the medication recommended are contraindicated due to nutritional status.
The medications can be grouped in to those that help with new bone formation (Anabolic agents) or those that help by suppressing the bone breakdown phase (Antiresorptive agents).
National Osteoporosis Foundation has an exhaustive list (below) of medications for treatment of Osteoporosis.
The table below outlines the side effects and mechanism of the actions of the common medications used for treatment of osteoporosis which was published by the University Health News Publication on August of 2014.
With all this information, the few points to remember is that the most important factors in healthy bone structure are the nutritional status Protein, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K1 levels.
This is an animation of normal bone Metabolism. It shows how bone structures is taken down and rebuilt continuously. This allows for a healthy bone maintainence as we age. The key is the balance of breakdown (osteoclast) and the build up (osteoblast) activity is regulated. Osteoporosis develops when there is more breakdown that build up.
With permission of Dr. Susan Ott of University of Washington.
Additional information available on her site.
Past blogs on Bone Health.
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and MBSAQUIP-A on March of 2019, published and updated list of “Endorsed Procedures and Devices”
Note that any surgical procedures that does not employ two anastomosis, are not endorsed and are only recommended to be performed with an IRB (Institutional Review Board) or an IRB exemption. Duodenal Switch, Sleeve Gastrectomy, Roux en Y Gastric Bypass, Gastric Balloon, Adjustable Gastric Banding, and Nerve Blocking which are endorsed procedures.
SIPS, SADI-S, SIPS, Loop DS are all in the category of the “Non-Endorsed Procedures and Devices”. To see an anatomical comparison of these procedures to the Duodenal Switch procedure.
Patients should request that their consent be clearly defined and should explicitly outline the procedure that is being proposed to them. This is to avoid a patient having a procedure that they assumed, or are led to believe to be a Duodenal Switch operation with two anastomosis. Do your due diligence and know the procedure you want. Investigate if the surgeon you are working with performs the procedure you are interested in. Have them draw a picture of the procedure or give you a diagram of the procedure.
We have become reliant on the information that we obtain from the internet, specifically platforms such as Facebook. In our practice we have to continuously correct information that patients have obtained from other patients, unmonitored sites, blogs, and postings. Most of this information is based on individual experiences that has become gospel. “Fat is good for you” is one of them. To clarify, some health fat (olive oil, avocado, Omega 3) is healthy and needed for all patients. We do not recommend “fat bombs” as a part of ones daily dietary intake.
The following article was written on the accuracy of nutritional posts in support groups on Facebook.
Koalall et. all in SAORD, December 2018 Volume 14, Issue 12, Pages 1897–1902 published
“Content and accuracy of nutrition-related posts in bariatric surgery Facebook support groups”
The conclusion, as suspected, that “Over half of the posts contained inaccurate content or information that was too ambiguous to determine accuracy..:”
It is our recommendation before any dietary recommendations are taken from facebook and the like, the source of the information should be verified. As I have stated in the past, a frequent flier passenger is probably not qualified to fly a
commercial airplane, any more than a previous weight loss surgical patient providing medical and nutritional advice. We realize that there is significant value to the forum for exchange of information and sharing of experiences with other weight loss surgical patients as long as the information is well sourced and verified.
Here we go again…. There is a new cure for obesity, Gastric Balloon, with minimal to no risk, is an outpatient procedure and/or can be done in the surgeons office with no anesthesia. Have we not similar claimed like this before (Adjustable gastric band) ?
Randomized sham-controlled trial of the 6-month swallowable gas-filled intragastric balloon system for weight loss published in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases 14 (2018) 1876–1889, by Sullivan et. al reports
“Conclusions: Treatment with lifestyle therapy and the 6-month swallowable gas-filled intragastric balloon system was safe and resulted in twice as much weight loss compared with a sham control, with high weight loss maintenance at 48 weeks.”
This sound very promising, however is very vague and leaves out significant, critical, and pertinent information.
The outcome of weight loss at 24 weeks was reported in Total Body weight loss % (TBWL%), Excess weight % (EWL), weight loss, and BMI change. Of those, the last three were statistically significant changes.
It is stated that the Gastric Balloon is temporary device that needs to be removed in 6 months and should be considered in low BMI patients (<35kg/m2). It is is important for those patients who are considering this temporary expensive measure for minimal weight loss to entertain the alternative of the same temporary results that may be obtained by lifestyle changes. These results may be maintained by a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and eating without the need for a device.
There are differing opinions, based on a broad set of scientific publication, wether or not gallbladder should be removed at the time of weight loss surgery. Obviously, Cholecystectomy is a stand alone general surgical procedure that is often performed due to gallstones and/or gallbladder disease with a variety of symptoms. However, the focus of this blog will deal with Bariatric Surgery and Cholecystectomy.
Rapid weight loss can increase a patients chance of forming gallstones. This rapid weight loss can be as little as 3-5 pounds per week. Weight loss surgery can increase your risk for gallstone formation. Several of the common thought processes the mechanism of this is, obesity may be linked to higher cholesterol in the bile, larger gallbladders, high fat diet and larger abdominal girth.
When a patient is having the Duodenal Switch (DS) Bariatric operation, or having a revision of a failed gastric bypass to the DS, I always remove the gallbladder. This is because there isn’t an anatomical route to utilize endoscopic procedure for an ERCP should the need rise.
In the case of a patient undergoing Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, if there are any indications or complaints of abdominal pain then an ultrasound is done. If there are findings of gallstones or other disease of the gallbladder, then a cholecystectomy is performed at the same time as the Sleeve Gastrectomy.
In my opinion, every patient having the Gastric Bypass (RNY) should also have the gallbladder removed because of the anatomical limitations after surgery that prevents the use of ERCP if needed. Some clinicians will place the patient on a long term medications to reduce the chance of gladstone formation after surgery, which themselves have side effects limiting the compliance in most patients.
Further information on Common Bile Duct Dilatation and ERCP