Can Bariatric Surgery Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

More and more studies claim that the answer may be "yes"; in many cases, bariatric surgery is an effective cure for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. To be clear, diabetes is not well understood and medical science cannot claim a permanent “cure”. The goal is to put diabetes in remission. Remission means a return to normal blood sugar levels and no need for diabetes medications. With glucose at normal levels, the progression of diabetic complications is halted, thus giving the body a chance to repair the damage.

In other words, remission means that you are presently "cured" and will remain so, unless the factors causing the disease return to a degree sufficient to cause a relapse.

So, the correct question is, does bariatric surgery cause type 2 diabetes to go into remission? And, in many cases, the answer is a resounding yes.

How does bariatric surgery “cure” Type 2 diabetes?

We know that bariatric surgery puts type 2 diabetes into remission; what we don’t know is how it does it.

It's clear that healthy weight loss plays a significant role in reducing blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics, and bariatric surgery has been proven to be the most effective way for obese patients to lose significant body weight.

But, there are additional factors at work. Many see an instant reversal of their diabetes immediately after gastric bypass surgery or gastric sleeve surgery – before they lose any weight. This is what science doesn't fully understand.

One theory suggests that bypassing or removing part of the stomach immediately impacts the way glucose is processed in the digestive system. Another claims that by shunting food directly to the lower intestine, a substance called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is stimulated, which can increase insulin production. Scientists also speculate that hormones that prompt hunger such as peptide Y (PPY) may be dulled by rearranging the anatomy of the gut. In other words, if people crave less sugar, they may be able to manage their blood sugar levels better.

In any case, study after study has shown that bariatric surgery is much more effective than drug therapy alone in the management of diabetes. Long term studies show that even in the cases where patients don't achieve remission, their glucose levels are lower than those who don't undergo surgery.

What are the chances that bariatric surgery will help in my case?

This is what a review of over 620 scientific studies involving more than 100,000 patients has found: Gastric bypass surgery causes an improvement in glucose levels in virtually all cases, and full remission in 80%. Some types of bariatric surgery are more effective than others. Gastric banding, known popularly as the "Lap Band", is the least effective, with remission rates of 50-60%, while the seldom used biliopancreatic diversion, usually reserved for the most extreme cases of obesity, has remission rates of 95%. The effects of the sleeve gastrectomy, or the gastric sleeve, is less known, but recent studies suggest that it achieves remission rates of 80% -- similar to the gastric bypass.

The chance of achieving full remission depends on the severity of the disease and how long you've had it. A key finding in all studies is that the less time you suffer from diabetes, the more likely you'll achieve a full reversal. Patients who have pre-diabetes – those on the cusp of developing the disease – achieve remission in almost all cases. Patients with severe diabetes, those who take insulin, have lower remission rates than those who only take oral medications.

The question of whether remission can be permanent is still unknown, but recent studies suggest that the benefits can be long-lasting, and that maintenance of a healthy body weight plays an important role.

Bariatric surgery “curing” Type 2 diabetes success stories

If you are considering bariatric surgery as a means to help cure your type 2 diabetes, please read some of our patients that have shared their success stories with us. “My experience at Barix was remarkable. Everyone was so kind, and after the informational session I felt that I was going to be taken care of,” said Matthew D., who battled diabetes before coming to Barix. “My whole life has changed.”

Want to learn more about treating Type 2 diabetes with bariatric surgery?

Contact us to speak with one of our patient service representatives today. Call 1-800-311-8545 or complete and submit the form at the top of the page.

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