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Type 2 diabetes and weight loss surgery

A recent study found that type 2 diabetes and weight loss surgery can result in diabetes remission under certain conditions. This occurs with or without significant weight loss. The diabetes remission after surgery lasted an average of seven years.  

Type 2 diabetes impacts over 11% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and numbers continue to climb. Due to its rising prevalence and devastating health implications, researchers continue to look for cures.  

I am pleased to share good news in potential treatment options for type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes.  

This study was announced in July at the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery’s (ASMBS) annual meeting. 

Type 2 diabetes and weight loss surgery study 

Research included a multicenter retrospective study of patients with diabetes who underwent gastric bypass between 2008-17.  

The association between weight and type 2 diabetes was already well documented. Type 2 diabetes results in too much sugar in the blood. This can lead to problems in the circulatory, nervous and immune systems. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as body mass index increases. An accumulation in excessive body fat can result in type 2 diabetes.  

Many other previous studies have shown that significant weight loss can result in diabetes remission. As a result, this can eliminate the need to take medication or insulin. Because of the connection between weight and diabetes, more than 70% of patients with type 2 diabetes are eligible for weight-loss surgery. Even so, only about 1% of those eligible undergo the surgery in any given year. 

Reasons for diabetes remission 

In the new study, about 41% of patients who lost the least following gastric bypass surgery went into diabetes remission. Many of them lost less than 18% of their initial weight. Type 2 diabetes and weight loss surgery without a huge loss of weight is believed to be from hormonal and anatomy changes from the surgery. 

Gastric bypass surgery bypasses the first part of the intestine, where most insulin regulation happens. This causes a profound impact on gut hormones that influence hunger, satiation and cravings, said ASMBS President Dr. Teresa LaMasters, who was not involved in the study.  

Patients in the study were more likely to achieve full remission in diabetes following surgery if they had not had diabetes for long, did not use insulin, had less need for diabetes medications and had lower blood sugar at baseline.  

Due to the study’s results, researchers are hopeful that type 2 diabetes and weight loss surgery may result in diabetes remission, even for patients who are not overweight. People with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, foot problems, eye disease and kidney disease.  

In addition to medicine that helps control diabetes, patients often must take medications for high blood pressure and other issues. Another complication from diabetes is nerve damage that affects the feet and legs, but can also affect digestion, blood vessels and the heart.  

While gastric bypass surgery is not a magic pill – as it can come with risks and the need for patients to exercise and follow a healthy diet after surgery – it could offer a chance for many people to be free of type 2 diabetes and its ill health impacts. In addition, it continues to help people with obesity.  

About the Author 

Dr. Moses Shieh specializes in advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgery and is founder of Surgical Healing. Take this assessment to see if you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.