According to recent statistics, roughly 30 million Americans currently suffer from type 2 diabetes. The vast majority of these people, around 90% in fact, are overweight or obese, and oftentimes their diabetes can be cured through weight loss.
For years, doctors have been divided about the best way to induce this weight loss, with some advocating for exercise and lifestyle changes, while others have been in favor of weight loss surgery. But now, the debate may be over, as a team of researchers recently published a study saying that bariatric surgery was the most effective way to treat type 2 diabetes.
Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is a way of inducing weight loss through body modifications. Currently, there are a couple common types of bariatric surgery available. In some cases, the size of the stomach is reduced with a gastric band. In other cases, the small intestine is rerouted around the stomach itself and reattached to a smaller stomach pouch. Regardless of the method, bariatric surgery is designed to limit the amount of food a person can take in, thereby enhancing their ability to lose weight.
For the trial, 61 obese adults suffering from diabetes were placed into two groups. One of the groups underwent bariatric surgery, while members of the other group sought to cure their diabetes through lifestyle changes alone. After three years, nobody in the lifestyle group saw a meaningful decline in their diabetes. Conversely, roughly 30% of the people who underwent gastric bypass and 40% of those who received gastric bands found that their diabetes had been effectively cured.
Although the results of the study indicate that surgery is the more effective solution to treating diabetes, scientists are still unsure exactly why it works. Some doctors have theorized that because gastric bypass surgery realigns the digestive system, it could induce hormonal changes that impact diabetes, causing the disease to dissipate.
To be sure, weight loss is a proven way to treat diabetes, but many patients who undergo bariatric surgery see a reduction in their diabetes symptoms prior to losing a significant amount of weight, meaning the correlation is still unknown.
Despite these results, experts remain cautious. For starters, not everyone suffering from type 2 diabetes is healthy enough to undergo surgery, even if it’s only minimally invasive. Also, further research with larger sample sizes will need to be done in order to determine just how effective surgery is at treating diabetes.
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