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weight loss surgery for diabetes

How can bariatric weight loss surgery improve diabetes?

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The decision to have weight loss surgery isn’t just about cosmetic results. Although the visible changes a patient may experience following bariatric weight loss surgery can be dramatic, for many patients, the decision to undergo a weight loss procedure is more than skin deep.

Obesity-related health conditions are a real concern. Carrying excess body weight ranks at the top of the list of diabetes causes. Obesity is also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol, stroke, depression, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and breathing problems, body pain and difficulty functioning, low quality of life and even some types of cancer (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder and liver).

The link between weight and diabetes

There are two types of diabetes: type 1, which is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, and type 2, which is the weight-related disease that develops when the body becomes insulin resistant. Excess body weight, particularly abdominal fat, makes it difficult for the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of Americans living with diabetes has skyrocketed in the last two decades, due in part to the rising numbers of obesity. As of 2015, more than 100 million adults in America were living with diabetes or prediabetes. About 30.3 million Americans — or 9.4 percent of the population — have been diagnosed with the disease. The Obesity Society suggests that as many as 90 percent of people living with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. What’s even more startling is that the American Diabetes Association estimates that 8.1 million Americans are diabetic and don’t know it. When left untreated, high blood sugar from diabetes can cause kidney damage, liver failure and, ultimately, death.

If you have a family history of diabetes, you are even more likely to develop the disease. Diabetes screening is recommended around age 30 for adults with a family history of diabetes. It is also recommended for individuals who weigh more than nine pounds at birth, as large babies may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Bariatric weight loss surgery as treatment for diabetes

Diabetes can be a devastating disease, but there is good news for diabetes who are overweight. Being overweight or obese doesn’t mean you are destined to have diabetes. Losing even a small percentage of excess body fat can decrease your risk for developing the disease or decrease your dependency on diabetes medications if you have already been diagnosed.

Weight loss surgery is an effective treatment option for diabetes. Both the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) agree that complications from type 2 diabetes can improve with bariatric weight loss surgery. Not only can bariatric surgery help a patient lose weight by restricting caloric intake and nutrient absorption, but it may also affect the hormones that control how the body responds to insulin and blood sugar.

In a joint report released last year, the ADA and EASD recommend weight loss surgery to control hyperglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes and to improve quality of life. Bariatric weight loss surgery is the treatment of choice for obese patients living with type 2 diabetes who are unable to control their blood sugar with diet, exercise and medication alone.

According to the ADA’s 2018 Standards of Medical Care in diabetes, bariatric weight loss surgery is:

  • Recommended for any patient with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, regardless of their A1C.
  • Recommended for patients whose BMI falls between 35 and 39 if lifestyle changes and medication alone are unable to control A1C levels.
  • Considered an option for people with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 if medications (including insulin) are unable to regulate A1C. 

Maintaining a healthy weight is absolutely essential to the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Although bariatric weight loss surgery is not considered a cure for diabetes, as some patients do relapse, numerous studies have shown that the majority of overweight or obese diabetics who make the decision to undergo weight loss surgery see a dramatic improvement in their blood sugar levels.

If you are overweight or obese and have been diagnosed with diabetes or have a family history of the disease, contact your First Baptist Medical Center weight loss doctor today to learn more about bariatric weight loss surgery options for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.