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Obesity surgery also treats diabetes, 3 years on: study

Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States. Around 26 million people in the country have the condition, which can be highly debilitating. It can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other medical complications.

The Social Security Disability program includes diabetes on its list of qualifying conditions for benefits. Meanwhile, investigators are looking for ways to eliminate or reduce the disease’s effects in patients.

Many people living with diabetes have what is known as “diabesity,” or Type 2 diabetes caused by obesity. A new study of diabetes patients three years after undergoing stomach-reducing surgeries indicates that the operation may also eliminate diabetes, in findings that one observer thinks could change the way “diabese” people are cared for from now on.

The new data is from the three-year mark of a study comparing the treatment of Type 2 diabetes with weight-loss surgery with medication alone. The stomach-reducing operations showed almost immediate effects; some patients no longer needed insulin injections within a few days of their operations.

After one year, there appeared to be a benefit, but since that is a relatively short time period, some doctors were unconvinced about the long-term effects. But after three years, blood-sugar levels were normal in 38 percent and 25 percent of two groups who underwent a form of surgery. Nearly half of the members of these groups required insulin prior to surgery. Today, fewer than 10 percent use insulin.

To compare, only 5 percent of those in the medication-only group had normal blood sugar after three years. One cardiologist who was not involved with the study called it “quite remarkable.” He said that he never would have thought that weight-loss surgery would have such dramatic effects on Type 2 diabetes.

Surgery can be serious, but it appears that operations that reduce the size of the stomach may have the side benefit of getting diabetes under control. This is an encourage development for those living with the disease.

Source: Associated Press, “Surgery gives long-term help for obese diabetics,” Marilynn Marchione, March 31, 2014

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