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Weight Loss Surgery May Help Moderately Obese, Too

It reduces symptoms of type 2 diabetes, studies found, but surgical risks exist

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Weight-loss surgeries -- including gastric bypass and gastric banding -- were associated with a greater weight loss than nonsurgical treatments. Weight-loss surgeries led to as much as 32 to 53 pounds more weight loss and also to greater improvements in blood sugar levels.

"I think we found some promising results for the lower BMI patients with diabetes. There were better results in terms of controlling glucose [blood sugar] and weight loss over one to two years. That we have a way to provide some sort of successful treatment is exciting. But, we don't yet know how sustainable these changes are. We need longer and larger studies," said Dr. Melinda Maggard-Gibbons, lead review author, and an associate professor with RAND Health in Santa Monica, Calif.

The second study included 120 people from four teaching hospitals in the United States and Taiwan. They all took part in an intensive lifestyle and medical management program before the study, and half of the group was given gastric bypass surgery.

All had a BMI between 30 and 39.9, with an average of 34.3 in the medical management group and 34.9 in the surgery group. They also all had type 2 diabetes.

A year later, 28 people from the surgery group and 11 people from the medical management group met the study's goals. These goals were to have an HbA1C level of below 7 percent (a measure that indicates good blood sugar control); LDL or "bad" cholesterol of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter; and systolic blood pressure (the top number) of less than 130.

Overall, those in the surgical group needed three fewer medications. They also lost significantly more of their initial body weight -- about 26 percent for the surgical group compared with 8 percent for the medical management group, the study found.

However, there were 22 serious adverse events in the surgical group compared with 15 in the medical management group. And, one person in the surgical group had a number of complications that eventually led to brain damage, which will likely be permanent.

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