New Research Shows Surgery is Best Solution for Treating Type 2 Diabetes

August 12, 2015
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It wasn’t but a decade ago that the evidence surrounding the efficacy of major weight loss surgeries was hazy at best. Now, new research suggests that gastric bypass and gastric sleeve procedures may be more effective for type 2 diabetes patients than even basic lifestyle changes.

New Study Places Emphasis on Surgery

It wasn’t but a decade ago that the evidence surrounding the efficacy of major weight loss surgeries was hazy at best. Now, new research suggests that gastric bypass and gastric sleeve procedures may be more effective for type 2 diabetes patients than even basic lifestyle changes.

New Study Places Emphasis on Surgery

For years we’ve known the effectiveness of surgery in treating type 2 diabetes; however, for the first time ever, doctors and researchers are willing to say that bariatric surgery may be better for diabetics than more traditional remedies and solutions. Those traditional diabetic solutions include healthy eating and exercise.

The catch, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is that patients must exercise and eat healthy after surgery if they want to keep the weight off and continue to go into remission. The catalyst for recovery is definitely the surgery, though.

“While this trial provides valuable insights, unanswered questions remain such as the impact of these treatments on long-term microvascular and macrovascular complications and the precise mechanisms by which bariatric surgical procedures induce their effects,” the study’s authors explain.

3 Key Bariatric Procedures

While the JAMA study specifically looked at gastric bypass surgery, gastric sleeve surgery and gastric banding have also been directly linked to improved health and long-term outlook in type 2 diabetics. Here’s a quick overview of the three procedures:

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1. Gastric Sleeve Surgery

The gastric sleeve surgical procedure attempts to remove roughly 75 percent of the stomach, leaving only a narrow gastric tube – or “sleeve.” The great thing about this procedure is that no intestines have to be bypassed or removed during surgery. It also has a fairly quick operative time and can be used more effectively than gastric bypass for patients with severe lung or heart disease.

Through the success of sleeve gastrectomy, thousands of patients and type 2 diabetics live to tell their stories. In one study, 37 percent of sleeve gastrectomy patients were able to gain control of their type 2 diabetes, compared to only 12 percent of patients receiving ongoing and intensive medical therapy for an entire year.

2. Gastric Bypass Surgery

As mentioned in the JAMA study, gastric bypass is also an option. It’s slightly more invasive and time intensive, but the results could be even better than the sleeve gastrectomy. Gastric bypass surgery has been around since the late 1960s and is performed through a number of tiny incisions. The procedure involves three distinct steps. (1) A small pouch is created. (2) Part of the small intestine is bypassed to create the “short intestinal roux limb.” (3) The roux limb – or bypassed intestine – is then attached to the pouch.

According to the aforementioned study, 42 percent of gastric bypass patients were able to gain control of their type 2 diabetes – compared to the 12 percent success rate of the group that underwent intensive medical therapy for 12 months.

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3. Gastric Banding

One of the least invasive, yet highly effective surgeries for obesity is laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB). This procedure is performed by making tiny abdominal cuts through which the surgeon places instruments and cameras. The goal of the procedure is to place a small band around the top of the stomach – making the patient feel full after eating small portions of food. The procedure can be reversed in the future if need be.

According to a four-year case-controlled study, LAGB is proven to actually prevent type 2 diabetes. “In morbid obesity, sustained and long-lasting weight loss obtained through LAGB prevents the occurrence of type 2 diabetes and hypertension and decreases the prevalence of these disorders,” the study’s abstract concludes.

Seeking a Better Lifestyle

While the new studies and revelations show that bariatric surgery provides a better outlook for type 2 diabetics, the simple goal remains: Live a healthier lifestyle. Surgery will stop the damage and encourage remission, but it’s then up to the patient to gain control over their diabetes through healthy eating, exercising, and an ongoing investment in patient education. 

For type 2 diabetics who can’t seem to control their symptoms or find healing, it may be worth it to contact their primary care doctor and ask for a referral to a bariatric surgeon who can discuss the health benefits of surgical procedures in further detail.