Weight loss surgery can reduce, eliminate need for diabetes drugs

Obese people who undergo bariatric surgery to lose weight can reverse the signs of diabetes by quickly lowering blood sugar levels, and as a result reduce or eliminate their need for insulin or other medications, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

The study involved 150 people with type 2 diabetes who agreed to have bariatric surgery to lose weight. Researchers found that 42 percent had blood sugar levels that returned to normal after surgery. Some improved so quickly that they went off their diabetes medications before leaving the hospital.

Keeping blood sugar levels in check is vital to good health. People with diabetes often require insulin or diabetes medications to keep their blood sugar in control. Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of diabetic complications such as heart attacks, kidney failure, amputations and blindness.

Bariatric surgery includes a variety of procedures designed to induce less eating and, thus, weight loss. These surgeries involve reducing the size of the stomach either with an implantable medical device (gastric band), through the removal of a portion of the stomach, or by resecting and re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass surgery). Bariatric surgery is recommended for obese people with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 40, and for people with BMI of 35 and serious coexisting medical conditions such as diabetes. Patients in the study agreed to let researchers randomly assign them to one of the three procedures.

While the study’s results are promising, the surgery does carry risks, including dehydration and bleeding. Four of the patients in the study who underwent bariatric surgery had to undergo additional surgeries to fix complications within a year of their operation.

These risks should also be weighed against the dangers of diabetes, as well as the side effects those medications can carry. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) severely restricted the use of Avandia after the type 2 diabetes drug was linked to fatal heart attacks. Months later, the FDA issued a warning on Actos after studies showed it may put users at risk for bladder cancer.

Source: USA Today