Weight-loss Surgery and Diabetes

Bariatric surgery is not only effective at inducing weight loss, but improving obesity-related health conditions, as well. In a recent small study of obese patients, weight-loss surgery was better at keeping type 2 diabetes at bay than diet and exercise alone, researchers reported. They found that 3 years after weight-loss surgery, more than two-thirds of patients who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) no longer needed any diabetes medications.

For the study, 61 obese patients with diabetes were randomly assigned to either an intensive weight-loss program for one year followed by a less intensive program for two years, or bariatric surgery. Some of the “bariatric-surgery group” patients had a bypass and others had adjustable gastric banding (Lap-Band). The results showed that there was more improvement in the surgical groups than in the lifestyle-only treatment group. Forty percent of RYGB and almost 30% of the Lap Band patients achieved complete or partial remission of their diabetes at three years, while NO remission was seen in the nonsurgical group. Further, participants who had gastric bypass lost 25% of their starting weight, adjustable gastric banding patients lost 15%, and patients who took part only in the diet and exercise program lost less than 6% of their starting weight at three years.

Earlier research has had similar findings, including a 2014 study which found that bariatric surgery is effective at controlling diabetes long after surgery.  The key findings were that 35% of patients who had surgery achieved a 3 year remission of diabetes or much improved blood sugar control, while none of the medicine-only patients achieved remission. As much as 90% of the patients who had bariatric surgery no longer needed to take insulin, while only about 45% of the patients in the non-surgery group were able to discontinue insulin. Additionally, surgery patients needed less medicine to control their blood pressure and cholesterol.

These are just a few of the recent studies that highlight the potential of weight loss surgery at improving diabetes.

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