Weight-loss surgery can reverse Type 2 diabetes -- for many, for a while


Weight-loss surgery can cure many obese people -- perhaps more than 60% of them -- of their diabetes, at least in the short term, suggests a new analysis of several studies.

Though previous research had suggested that weight-loss surgery could reverse diabetes, researchers from the Netherlands have formalized the evidence a bit through a review of nine studies published in the June Archives of Surgery.

Among the studies included in the analysis, 424 people with Type 2 diabetes underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, in which the surgeon creates a small pouch in the stomach that restricts food intake and bypasses part of the small intestines to cut down on absorption. Within days of the surgery, 83% of the subjects could stop taking diabetes medications.


And among 211 patients who had adjustable gastric banding, in which a silicon band is fitted around the stomach to restrict food intake, 62% could stop taking their diabetes medications in the months after surgery, researchers said.

The effect continued after one and two years, the researchers found, but appeared to wane after 10 years, with only 36% of patients in one large study still having good control over their blood glucose levels. Still, the authors write in the abstract:

“The presence of diabetes mellitus is a compelling argument to perform bariatric surgery in those who are eligible according to international criteria.

But not even the study authors are saying to just have surgery.

Surgery involves risk, after all, and the most dramatic effects don’t seem to last forever for most people. Further, most of the studies thus far have been small. The authors conclude:

“Although excellent results are reported, bariatric surgery in patients with DM2 [Type 2 diabetes] and a BMI less than 35 is controversial and requires further study.”

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