Weight-Loss Surgery: Cure For Diabetes?

January 12, 2009 7:44:44 AM PST
According to the American Diabetes Association, the most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. A person suffering from the condition does not produce enough insulin, which is required for the body to turn glucose into energy. Insulin moves glucose from the blood into cells, but if glucose builds up, cells may be starved for energy. Type 2 diabetes can also affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for the disease. Excess weight and physical inactivity both contribute to insulin resistance. The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) found approximately 58 percent of diabetes worldwide is due to a BMI above 21 kg/m2. In western countries, that figure jumps to about 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases. SURGICAL WEIGHT LOSS: Bariatric Surgery has become a mainstream procedure for obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight through diet and exercise. The treatment works by changing the anatomy of the digestive system, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold. The most common bariatric surgery is gastric bypass. In 2005, roughly 140,000 Americans sought the procedure, which has been performed since the 1950s. Many surgeons prefer this surgery because they say it's safer and has fewer complications.

AN UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECT: While the procedure can help patients lose weight, it may also help reduce the incidence of diabetes. Studies have shown about 80 percent of diabetics go into complete remission following the operation. Some patients have seen results just days after the procedure, even before losing a significant amount of weight. Francesco Rubino, M.D., chief of gastrointestinal metabolic surgery at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, N.Y., sought to find out the cause of this phenomenon. After performing bypass on diabetic rats, he discovered when the top of the small intestine is disconnected, the duodenum, diabetes disappears. When the duodenum is reattached, the disease returns. He concluded that preventing food from traveling through the duodenum can reverse diabetes, independent from weight loss. Clinical trials are currently taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on diabetics who are not obese to find out if the procedure is safe and effective for those individuals. Currently, people with diabetes who are not obese cannot get bariatric surgery; only morbidly obese patients can. Morbidly obese people are typically 100 pounds overweight.

In addition to diabetes, bariatric surgery offers other health benefits to patients as well. Some experts estimate that roughly 100,000 people in the United States die every year from cancer due to their weight. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found those who undergo bariatric surgery have about an 85 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer and a 70 percent reduction in the risk of colon cancer.


Tampa General Hospital
Ellen Fiss, Public Relations Manager
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