Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Now there’s new research to support previous findings that weight loss surgery can be an effective way to treat type 2 diabetes.
The study, which was conducted by King’s College London and the Universita Cattolica in Rome, Italy, followed 53 diabetic patients between the ages of 30 to 60 with a body-mass index (BMI) of 35 or more for five years. The researchers found that patients who were treated with weight loss surgery had a lower average level of blood glucose than those who were treated conventionally.
“Surgery is better at treating and getting rid of diabetes than medicine or diets. This has been proven over and again for many years,” says Dr. Dirk. “Diabetics who are obese and undergo surgery do better at getting rid of their diabetes than those who are treated with medications alone. This is accompanied by improvement in high blood pressure control and lowering cholesterol levels.”
Of the patients studied, there were no deaths or long-term complications from surgery. Five years after surgery, 50 percent of patients were still in remission from diabetes. The other 50 percent experienced a relapse of mild hyperglycemia, but showed adequate control of the disease at the five-year mark.
“The ability of surgery to greatly reduce the need for insulin and other drugs suggests that surgical therapy is a cost-effective approach to treating type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Francesco Rubino, senior author of the study, Chair of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London and a Consultant Surgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, in a press release.
Treating diabetes and its complications with medication is very costly for patients. Bariatric Diabetes Surgery may greatly reduce the need for medication and therefore may be a more cost-effective approach for obese patients.
However, surgery does have its limits.
“The only thing that surgery cannot change is permanent tissue damage caused by diabetes,” Dr. Dirk says. “Kidney scarring that leads to high blood pressure cannot be changed. Damage to nerves (neuropathy) does not go away. Damage to blood vessels in the eye (retina) also does not change. But getting obese diabetics to surgery sooner rather than later can avoid these damaging changes. If you are a diabetic and obese, surgery is your best treatment for getting rid of diabetes and the harmful changes it brings to your body.”
While the results of this study are optimistic, larger trials are necessary to confirm that surgery is more effective than medication for treating diabetes.