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Is Bariatric Surgery A Cure For Type 2 Diabetes?

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In recent months there has been an exciting development in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Bariatric surgeons, who provide weight loss surgery for extremely obese people, have found that the symptoms of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance improves dramatically immediately following surgery. The improvements seen in type 2 diabetes occurs before any weight reduction has started. So, is bariatric surgery a cure for type 2 diabetes?

Bariatric surgery is a term used for obesity surgery, which is used as a way of managing patients who have morbid obesity. It provides more effective weight loss rather than medical therapy.

It is now possible that the same type of surgery, called a bypass procedure, could be used as a potential cure for type 2 diabetes. A gastric bypass operation works by bypassing part of the stomach and reducing the amount of nutrients and food absorbed by the body. However, the exact mechanism for how bypass surgery could cure type 2 diabetes is still unknown, but it is likely to be a hormonal reaction.

Until it is understood how bariatric surgery cures type 2 diabetes it cannot be used as a medical therapy for diabetes.

This potential new treatment is exciting and very important for patients who live with the daily issues of taking diabetic medication and the lifestyle changes diabetes requires. Unfortunately, at this time, it is still in the preliminary stages with no long term data. The next step is to ensure that large scale trials are conducted with robust conclusions before bariatric surgery can be advocated as a definitive treatment for diabetes.

It is also important for people looking to bariatric surgery as a cure for diabetes to understand that this is an invasive and major procedure which has its own lifestyle changes attached to it.

Dr Daman Mulhi, Anaesthetic Consultant, NHS
Specialist in diabetes, anaesthesia, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and public health awareness


10084 Reviewed November 2012

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