Surgery Treats "Heavy" Diabetes Problem

Diabetes rates among severely obese reduced through gastric bypass surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Losing weight is hard, especially if you are obese. While exercise and a healthy diet can shed pounds, those steps alone are often not enough. When obese people want to prevent diabetes, weight loss surgery may be the answer.

Severely obese people who underwent weight loss surgery - specifically Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery - lost a significant amount of weight and were able to keep that weight off for many years, according to a recent study.

In addition, these obese patients had lower rates of diabetes and other complications and were more likely to control their diabetes than those who did not undergo surgery.

"Ask your doctor if weight loss surgery is right for you."

Ted D. Adams, PhD, MPH, of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and colleagues wanted to see how Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery affected weight, diabetes and other health risks in the 6 years after surgery.

Rates of extreme obesity in the United States are growing faster than rates of moderate obesity, the authors wrote. Unfortunately, lifestyle changes and drug therapy do not lead to long-term weight loss for many extremely obese patients, they continued. As such, weight loss surgery may be the only medical treatment left for the extremely obese - a population with a high risk of diabetes and other health problems.

The study's results showed that patients who underwent Roux-en-Y surgery had long-term weight loss, lower rates of diabetes and higher rates of diabetes remission (lessening of symptoms).

Over the course of 6 years, surgery patients lost an average of 27.7 percent of body weight.

After 2 years, 99 percent of surgery patients maintained a 10 percent weight loss. A total of 94 percent maintained more than a 20 percent weight loss.

After 6 years, 96 percent of surgery patients maintained more than a 10 percent weight loss and 76 percent maintained more than a 20 percent weight loss.

In other words, the vast majority of patients were able to lose weight and keep that weight off.

By the end of the study, 62 percent of surgery patients had diabetes remission. In comparison, 8 percent of those who sought surgery but did not have surgery and 6 percent of those who never sought surgery had diabetes remission.

The risk of developing diabetes was lower among surgery patients than among those who did not undergo surgery. Only 2 percent of surgery patients developed diabetes, while 15 to 17 percent of non-surgery patients developed the condition.

In addition, surgery patients had greater improvement in terms of high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

As the number of weight loss surgeries in the United States continues to rise, these findings may be important for the estimated 31 million Americans who may qualify for weight loss surgery, the authors said.

The study included 1,156 people who were severely obese (body mass index, or BMI, of 35 or more). Of these, 418 sought and underwent Roux-en-Y surgery, 417 sought and did not undergo surgery and 321 never sought weight loss surgery.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Center of Research Resources.

The research was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 17, 2012
Last Updated:
September 22, 2012