Weight Loss Surgery for Better Diabetes Outcomes

Weight loss surgery led to fewer deaths and heart attacks in type 2 diabetes patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Type 2 diabetes can lead to kidney failure, heart problems and even blindness. Weight loss surgery might help protect against these diabetes-related health issues.

A recent study of a group of obese patients with type 2 diabetes found that weight loss surgery was linked to a better chance of survival and fewer serious outcomes like heart attacks and strokes.

"Ask your doctor if weight loss surgery is a treatment option for you."

Brent Johnson, MS, of the Greenville Health System, led this study on weight loss surgery and diabetes outcomes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone that regulates the body's metabolism.

In the long term, type 2 diabetes has been linked to shorter life expectancies, heart and vein problems, kidney failure and blindness.

Because type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity, weight loss is one of the primary ways to manage the disease. Patients who don't shed pounds through typical lifestyle changes sometimes choose weight loss surgery.

This study looked at how weight loss surgery affected the outcomes of type 2 diabetes patients. The researchers also looked at whether the timing of the surgery affected outcomes.

This study used data from a South Carolina research database and included severely obese patients with type 2 diabetes from 1996 to 2009.

During this time period, 24,313 people with type 2 diabetes were identified as severely obese. Of these patients, 2,863 chose to undergo weight loss surgery as a treatment, and the rest received non-surgical medical treatment.

After five years, 96 percent of the surgery group had survived, while only 80 percent of the medically treated group survived.

After the researchers accounted for other health factors, they concluded that weight loss surgery was linked to a 67 percent reduction in death from all causes.

These researchers also looked at cardiovascular health problems that are commonly associated with type 2 diabetes. They looked for problems with larger blood vessels, including heart attacks and strokes.

These researchers also took note of patients who had issues with smaller blood vessels, such as those who developed blindness in either eye, had laser eye surgery, underwent an amputation or had to have hemodialysis — a process that removes waste from the body when the kidneys stop working properly.

Those patients who had chosen weight loss surgery had about a 60 percent less chance of experiencing a heart attack or stroke as those who did not have surgery. They were also 75 percent less likely to develop health problems related to smaller blood vessels.

The researchers concluded that weight loss surgery was associated with a 60 to 75 percent reduction in cardiovascular complications from diabetes.

These researchers also found that patients who underwent weight loss surgery sooner after they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes had better long-term outcomes. However, regardless of timing, weight loss surgery led to better survival rates.

The researchers called for more trials to confirm the results of the study.

This research was presented on November 13 at the Obesity Week conference. The researchers did not disclose funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 21, 2013
Last Updated:
November 22, 2013