Weight-loss surgery cures diabetes?
It is true, and we elaborate on that below. But first, a word about diabetes in general: It’s a problem you really don’t want to have. Type 2 diabetes is often lumped with other metabolic diseases that overweight adults tend to have, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but in truth, diabetes is quite a bit worse.
If you are someone who has had diabetes for a while, then you understand the difference: Unlike those other metabolic diseases, diabetes always progresses. It’s relentlessly progressive. You can slow the damage suffered by your organs – the feet, eyes, heart, kidneys, and brain – but you cannot completely stop it.
It’s different with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. With those, as long as you take the right medication, you have a very good chance of avoiding organ damage altogether. The same isn’t true with diabetes. Even if you are downright saintly with your medications and blood sugar checks, the disease will worsen with time. Your diet-controlled diabetes will one day require oral medication. That one pill will eventually turn into two, and later it will become three. With time, your sugar will become impossible to control without insulin; further on it will be hard even with insulin – the “end-stage” diabetic. With proper, meticulous care, this progression could be slowed, perhaps even by decades, but it could never really be turned off – that is until it was learned that bariatric surgery had a curative effect.
- Bariatric surgery is now included in the American Diabetic Association’s (ADA) Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.2
- In 2011, The International Diabetes Federation announced a new position supporting bariatric surgery to treat type 2 diabetes in obese patients.3
- The New England Journal of Medicine published two randomized clinical trials in April which compared bariatric surgery to standard, nonsurgical treatment in severe diabetics. These trials showed that diabetes was eliminated in the majority of the surgery patients, whereas similar cures were achieved in zero patients who got robust medical care.4,5
So, these are important milestones, and they represent progress in awareness. Unfortunately, surgery’s success with diabetes still remains one of the best kept secrets in medicine.