The Link Between Weight Loss Surgery and Reducing Type 2 Diabetes

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Our country is in the middle of a serious epidemic. In fact, it is a pandemic, with experts believing that the number of people with type 2 diabetes by 2030 will be twice as high as what it was in 2000. Different solutions are being put forward for this problem, one of which is bariatric surgery.

Understanding the Extent of the Problem

The National Institutes of Health believe that some 8% of adults in this country (24 million individuals) are diabetic, and that between 90% and 95% of those have type 2 diabetes. In almost all of these cases, the diabetes is caused directly by people being overweight or obese.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed by medication, behavioral therapy, and dietary and lifestyle changes. As with obesity, however, these therapies generally fail. In fact, the American Diabetes Association has stated that less than 50% of diabetics are able to manage it properly, meaning that their Hemoglobin A1C is below 7%. People with diabetes, meanwhile, increase their chance of various dangerous health conditions, and it doubles the chance of premature death as well.

If someone does have type 2 diabetes caused by being obese, then bariatric surgery may be a solution. Surgeons have known for years that patients can often significantly lower their dosage of, or even completely stop taking, diabetes medication. In fact, this often takes just a few days. This is a huge benefit that must be seen as independent from the weight that is lost after surgery, because it happens virtually straight away.

Some patients continue to have to use medication, although less so, for about two years. By the end of the two years, people are also expected to have achieved their target weight. So far, the results also seem to be long lasting. According to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a study in some 2,200 patients demonstrated that all patients who had bariatric surgery and who had type 2 diabetes saw a lasting improvement. Specifically:

  1. Before the surgery, each patient averaged four different medications for diabetes every day.
  2. 75% of all patients no longer took any medication after just six months.
  3. 85% of all patients no longer took any medication after two years.

The majority of the 2,200 patients had the Roux-en-Y surgery, which is an important determination. This is because this type of surgery diverts the food away from the duodenum, and it is believed that this is key in reversing diabetes.

The study also showed that participants spent much lower amounts on health care. It currently costs over $175 billion to treat diabetes in this country each year, a doubling over the past decade. The Johns Hopkins University study showed that, if this would be replicated on all type 2 diabetes patients, there would be a 70% decrease in health care costs in just three years.

A final added benefit is that weight loss surgery solves or minimizes a range of other health conditions as well.

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