Can Bariatric Surgery Fight Diabetes? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on October 20, 2014

Can Bariatric Surgery Fight Diabetes?

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314

Eliminating Diabetes With Bariatric Surgery

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If you have diabetes, your life may seem to revolve around managing and controlling it. But new research suggests that there might be a surgical procedure that can essentially rid you of your diabetes: bariatric surgery.

Though the main purpose of bariatric surgery is weight loss, studies have been showing that it may have the added benefit of treating type 2 diabetes in obese patients. In fact, in some cases, these studies have shown this procedure to be more successful than medications and lifestyle changes alone.

As the United States’ obesity rates continue to rise, so do the rates of obesity-related type 2 diabetes. That’s because obesity is one of the main risk factors for developing this kind of diabetes. Until recently, improving your diet, making lifestyle changes and taking weight-loss medications were thought to be the only way to help diabetics struggling with obesity slim down.

“The excess fat decreases the function of the insulin. By getting rid of the fat through bariatric surgery, you maximize the effect insulin has on the blood sugar,” said Aley Tohamy, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone Health System laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon.

This new study shows that some patients’ diabetes went into remission, their blood sugar went down and they stopped taking diabetes medications following weight loss surgery.

“We don’t say that we can cure diabetes, but rather that it went into remission and patients no longer need medication to control their blood sugar,” Dr. Tohamy said.

After the surgery, there appears to be an increased production of special hormones from the intestinal tract that are known to directly stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin.

“With gastric bypass surgery, we have found that the procedure delays the digestion process of the food. This means that you minimize the amount of calories, carbohydrates and sugar the body absorbs. This, combined with a reduced amount of body fat, maximizes insulin effectiveness,” Dr. Tohamy explained.

So should all type 2 diabetics run to their doctor’s office to make plans for this surgery?

This surgery is ideal for those who:
• Have tried to lose weight by traditional methods but couldn’t
• Have had trouble managing their diabetes
• Have had diabetes for less than four years

Surgery shouldn’t be the first form of diabetes treatment – patients should have exhausted all other treatments first.

Patients that move forward with the surgery must have tried other forms of diabetes treatments and still make major life changes to maintain the benefits after surgery. The research hasn’t explored the effects of bariatric surgery on non-obese diabetics yet.

Though bariatric surgery is ideal for type 2 diabetics, Dr. Tohamy said it may also present benefits to patients dealing with type 1 diabetes.

“With type 1 diabetics, their pancreas fails to produce insulin, so they need insulin from outside sources. Bariatric surgery can help type 1 diabetics use less outside insulin and make their diabetes more manageable,” he said.

As with any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with it. It can take up to two weeks to recover from this surgery and potential complications include weight regain, malnutrition, nausea, bloating, vomiting, gallstones, and lack of certain vitamins.

There is also the potential for a patient to gain the weight back and, thus, reverse the remission of their diabetes.

“Weight gain happens to approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients 10 to 15 years down the road,” Dr. Tohamy stated. In the event that this does happen, Dr. Tohamy said the surgery still helped the patient with his or her diabetes since they were able to live 10 to 15 years of their life free of diabetes, saving them from a host of health complications caused by diabetes.

“Overall, you saved them 10 to 15 years of life with no medications and complications of diabetes, and even if they gain the weight back, their diabetes is going to be better managed and less aggressive than before,” he said.

Join in the Annual Step Out/Walk to Stop Diabetes

Step Out | Walk to Stop DiabetesCrozer-Keystone Health System and Patrick Gavin, chief operating officer, Crozer-Keystone, are co-chairing the Annual American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes in Philadelphia on Saturday, November 1.

You can help make a big difference in the lives of people who are affected by diabetes. Join the CKHS team and donate here.

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