Published on July 13, 2016

Surgery may improve diabetes

Researchers reviewed the outcomes of more than 8,000 obese people with type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery.

Woman in kitchenThey found that nearly 87 percent experienced major improvements in diabetes control after surgery. In fact:

  • The majority of participants no longer required diabetes medication. They had normal blood sugar levels without it.
  • Others needed lower diabetes medication dosages or had more normal blood sugar levels.
  • These results were still true for most people two years after surgery.

Effectiveness differs with surgery type

The findings show that some types of bariatric surgery are more effective at reducing diabetes than others. For example:

  • Biliopancreatic diversion/duodenal switch eliminated diabetes symptoms in as many as 95 percent of patients. This procedure involves removing the lower stomach and bypassing the upper small intestine.
  • Gastric bypass and gastroplasty both resolved diabetes symptoms in about 80 percent of patients. Both procedures make the stomach smaller by stapling off a small pouch for holding food. Gastroplasty also uses a band to delay food from leaving the pouch and increase feelings of fullness.
  • Laparoscopic gastric banding resolved symptoms in 57 percent of patients. Gastric banding involves placing a band around the upper stomach, creating a small pouch to store food.

The types of bariatric surgery that were most effective at improving diabetes symptoms were also most effective at helping patients lose weight. Overall, participants lost 64 percent of excess weight with surgery.

However, other published studies indicate that the surgery itself—not just the weight loss—may be a key to diabetes treatment. That’s because diabetes symptoms can disappear within days after having bariatric surgery, before the patient has lost significant weight. While this link is encouraging, more research is needed before any scientific conclusions can be made.

Surgery not ‘cure-all’ for diabetes

The study’s authors note that more focused research must be done to understand the connection between diabetes and bariatric surgery. Their study was based on data from more than 600 existing studies that reported results in different ways and had follow-up results for less than half of participants.

Keep in mind, not everyone is a candidate for bariatric surgery or for each surgery type. There are a number of factors to consider besides how surgery might impact your diabetes. Talk with your doctor to learn more about:

  • Whether you’re a candidate for bariatric surgery
  • The approach that’s right for you
  • Benefits and potential risks and side effects of the surgery