Weight Loss Surgery Treats Type 2 Diabetes Better Than Medication

Diabetes and Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss surgery is not only the most effective treatment for severe obesity, but it also works better than traditional treatment for type 2 diabetes in obese individuals. Two studies published recently online by the New England Journal of Medicine confirm what we at Barix have seen year after year, patient after patient: weight loss surgery significantly improves or resolves type 2 diabetes.

These studies found that bariatric surgery (gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and biliopancreatic diversion) were dramatically more effective at treating type 2 diabetes than medication treatment. They also support earlier studies indicating that improvements are seen in blood sugar levels almost immediately after surgery, before significant weight loss occurs.

One of the Barix patients, LeAnne, can attest to the life-impacting changes that surgery can bring. LeAnne underwent gastric bypass surgery at Barix Clinics in January of 2009. This is her story.

Before surgery, my life was full of doctor’s appointments, new medications, mood swings and never knowing how I was going to feel. I was on an insulin pump, at least three insulin injections a day and oral medication in an attempt to control my diabetes. That alone was exhausting and oftentimes discouraging. I would do just what I absolutely had to do throughout the day. I didn’t have energy for anything else.

My life has changed so much since having gastric bypass surgery. I not only look different but I feel so much better. I have energy to do anything that I want to do. I have a new love and respect for myself that I did not know I was lacking. My life is full of activities that I want to engage in, and is not scheduled around doctor’s appointments or trying to adapt to the side effects of a new medication. The day of my surgery was the last day I took an injection of insulin. I no longer use an insulin pump. I was also able to discontinue medication for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I have started living my life the way I want.

Bariatric surgery is well-accepted in the medical community as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. In fact, the International Diabetes Federation issued a statement in 2011 stating, “Bariatric surgery is an appropriate treatment for people with type 2 diabetes and obesity not achieving recommended treatment targets with medical therapies, especially when there are other major co-morbidities. Surgery should be an accepted option in people who have type 2 diabetes and a BMI of 35 kg/m2 or more. Surgery should be considered as an alternative treatment option in patients with a BMI between 30 and 35 kg/m2 when diabetes cannot be adequately controlled by optimal medical regimen, especially in the presence of other major cardiovascular disease risk.”

Below is a short summary of the new studies posted by the New England Journal online that found weight loss surgery an effective treatment for the obese with type 2 diabetes—better than treatment with medication.

One of the studies was conducted at the Cleveland Clinic with 150 patients. The patients received either intensive medical treatment or bariatric surgery. The gastric bypass and gastric sleeve bariatric surgery procedures were used. The study found that only 12% of those receiving medical treatment had lab tests (HbA1c of 6% or less) indicating remission of diabetes a year later, but 42% of those having gastric bypass and 37% of those having the gastric sleeve surgery met that criteria.

Sixty patients under went a study at the Catholic University of Rome with similar results. In this study, patients received either medical treatment, gastric bypass or biliopancreatic diversion (another form of bariatric surgery not as common in the United States). The study found that had a remission (HbA1c of 6.5% for at least a year without any medication) of diabetes 2 years after surgery.

Review the New England Journal online publication in full.

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