Does Bariatric Surgery Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

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One of the scariest side effects of obesity is your increased vulnerability to developing of type 2 diabetes. Of the estimated 29.1 million Americans dealing with this disease in 2012, over 90% were overweight or obese. As your body gains weight, there is added pressure to create insulin and manage proper blood sugar levels. However, when an individual develops type 2 diabetes, their body is no longer able to convert glucose in the blood to energy, leaving far too much in the bloodstream.

Living with Diabetes

The effects of diabetes are widespread and can drastically alter the quality of your life. From constant fatigue to blurred vision and frequent infections, such issues are a constant reality of living with type 2. In addition further complications such as heart disease, kidney malfunction and nerve damage which can lead to foot infections, even amputation are not uncommon.

Is there an Effective Treatment?

While lifestyle intervention programs, including diet and exercise regimes, can reduce the effects of diabetes, weight-loss effects are generally inconsistent and moderate at best. Amongst severely obese patients, 95% of such efforts fail within a year. With worldwide numbers for obesity estimated at 1.9 billion people across the globe, a more effective treatment is needed and for many in the medical community, bariatric surgery is the answer.

The Success of Bariatric Surgery

Over the past 10 years, study after study has shown how effective bariatric surgery is in resolving type 2 diabetes. Research has clearly shown that mortality rates, and related diseases arising from type 2 diabetes drop drastically after patients undergo a bariatric procedure.

These effects are not transient or delayed either, doctors find that remission in diabetes starts to occur nearly immediately after the operation far before individuals have experienced any weight-loss effects. Patients report normal blood sugar levels measured against even the strictest criteria for up to 5 years after the surgery, without the aid of any other medication. The findings show that in particular, bypass treatments such as roux-en-y and duodenal switch are responsible for normalizing plasma glucose and insulin levels in 80-100% of morbidly obese patients.

Bariatric surgery has become such a successful treatment for these issues that over 43 medical bodies around the world, including the American Diabetes Association, now recommend these surgeries for those dealing with obesity and diabetes simultaneously. While these recommendations currently only apply to patients with a BMI in the range of 35-40, doctors are pushing for the surgery to be authorized for all diabetes sufferers as the treatment seems to work irrespective of weight loss.

How does it Work?

The link between excess weight and type 2 diabetes has been well-known for decades now, and the restrictive and malabsorptive effects of bariatric surgery procedures are proven to reduce body weight by up to 70%. But what has really drawn the attention of medical researchers is the ability of this surgery to resolve diabetes symptoms without any weight loss.

Studies suggest that rerouting of the intestinal system that takes place during a bypass procedure plays a large part in this effect. By circumventing up to ¾ of the small intestine and delivering food and drink directly to the lower small intestine doctors suspect that a greater amount of glucose lowering hormone is produced. Hormones such as GLP-1 are only found in the lower intestine and work very similarly to existing diabetes medication to aid the body in converting glucose.

Another byproduct of bariatric surgery is the removal of vast tracts of the stomach. Many researchers are now investigating whether it’s the inhibition of several hormones in these areas of the gut that is responsible for helping to fight in type 2 diabetes. In particular, the hunger inducing hormone which is suppressed after gastric sleeve and bypass surgeries, is suspected to be a likely culprit

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