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New 15-year study says these procedures outperform regular care for obese patients

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that weight-loss surgery is more helpful to obese patients with type 2 diabetes over the long term than regular care is.

"This important study demonstrates what many of us in weight-loss surgery have suspected for years: That for those who are suffering from diabetes and severe obesity, weight-loss surgery and a healthy lifestyle works better to control these diseases than medical care alone," said Dr James McGinty, chief of the division of minimally invasive and baratric surgery at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City. He was not involved in the new research.

As obesity rates in the United States continue to rise, so do rates of obesity-linked type 2 diabetes. For years, improved diet, lifestyle changes and certain weight-loss medications were thought to be the only way to help obese diabetics slim down. However, the advent of weight-loss surgeries such as gastric bypass and the gastric banding procedure have brought new treatments to the fore.

According to the study authors, prior research has suggested that weight-loss surgery -- also known as bariatric surgery -- can help obese patients eliminate their diabetes symptoms in the short term. But it hasn't been clear whether the improvements would last.

In the new study, researchers led by Dr. Lars Sjostrom of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden tracked outcomes for 343 patients with type 2 diabetes who'd had weight-loss surgery. They then compared this to outcomes for 260 other diabetic patients who hadn't undergone the procedures.

After two years, 72 percent of those who'd undergone surgery were in remission from the disease, compared to only 16 percent of the other patients, the study found.

Those trends held over a much longer period of time as well: After 15 years, 30 percent of weight-loss surgery patients were still in remission but just 7 percent of the other patients were.

"In this very long-term follow-up observational study of obese patients with type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery was associated with more frequent diabetes remission and fewer complications than usual care," the study authors concluded. "These findings require confirmation in randomized trials."

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