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Evidence Weight-Loss Surgery Helps Against Diabetes

One-third of gastric-bypass patients kept type 2 diabetes under control without meds during three-year study

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Weight-loss surgery might do more than help people shed pounds. For some who have the surgery, it may also put type 2 diabetes into remission for several years, a new study suggests.

The success rate in controlling diabetes depended on the type of weight-loss surgery, the researchers said.

Patients who had the more involved gastric-bypass surgery were more likely to achieve control of their type 2 diabetes without the use of medications, compared to those who had a procedure known as sleeve gastrectomy, according to the new research.

"This study is a three-year follow-up. Initially, we showed that people lost a lot of weight after surgery, and for some people, that caused their type 2 diabetes to come to an end," said study co-author Dr. Sangeeta Kashyap, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute. "But no one knew how lasting that would be."

"One-third [of patients] in the gastric bypass group had remission of diabetes -- meaning they had normal blood sugar control -- and a quarter of the people in the sleeve gastrectomy group had remission of type 2 diabetes," Kashyap said. "These effects are real, and they're persistent for at least three years. Essentially, these patients have had a vacation from diabetes for three years."

Even when people weren't able to achieve a full remission from type 2 diabetes, weight-loss surgeries still helped many participants take less medication to control their blood sugar, according to the study.

Kashyap also said quality of life was improved for people who had the weight-loss surgery compared to those who received standard type 2 diabetes management. Quality-of-life measures included bodily pain, physical functioning, energy levels and emotional well-being.

"People who have weight-loss surgery generally feel better, happier and healthier," Kashyap said.

The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, which makes surgical devices.

Results of the study will be presented Monday at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting in Washington, D.C., and published in the March 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Type 2 diabetes causes the body to use the hormone insulin inefficiently. Insulin helps get sugar from the blood into the body's cells to be used as fuel. When cells become insulin resistant, that fuel can't make it into the cells and instead builds up in the blood. High levels of sugar in the blood over long periods of time can cause serious complications, such as kidney and heart disease, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Although the exact cause of type 2 diabetes remains unknown, one of the biggest risk factors for developing the disease is obesity.

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