In recent years, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has been on the rise, due in part to an increasing percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese. Traditionally, oral medications and insulin have been used to keep diabetes in check, but a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has suggested that bariatric surgery may actually be more effective than medication in treating the disease.
“Because obesity is such a key factor in diabetes, weight loss surgery that is designed to get rid of excess weight and combat weight gain can often be beneficial in helping to treat the disease,” explains Deebeanne Tavani, DO, PhD, Chief of Endocrinology at Main Line Health.
In addition to being free of diabetes, the study also found that patients who undergo weight loss surgery are more likely to have decreased their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as their dependency on diabetes medications.
Now that these studies have been released, many obese adults who have Type 2 diabetes may consider weight loss surgery as a viable option for treating diabetes. While bariatric surgery might become a consideration for those with diabetes, there are lingering concerns about whether weight loss surgery should be widely used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
“Bariatric surgery may be very effective in treating some cases of Type 2 diabetes in obese patients,” says Dr. Tavani. “However, the method requires more thorough investigation and shouldn’t necessarily be the answer for everyone who has Type 2 diabetes.”
Initially, bariatric surgery is successful in helping people lose weight, often close to 100 pounds or more. Still, it can be difficult to maintain this weight loss and some patients gain back the weight they lost over time. Lifestyle changes are equally important for weight loss in bariatric patients with and without Type 2 diabetes.
“Reducing your sugar intake, adhering to a healthier diet, considering portion size, and the types of food you eat are important, no matter what medical therapy is used to treat your diabetes. Bariatric surgery patients are not escaping that part of treatment,” says Dr. Tavani.
In addition, weight loss surgery can be expensive, and doctors and patients have yet to see if insurance companies would be willing to pay for these procedures if they are only being used to treat Type 2 diabetes.
For the time being, Dr. Tavani suggests talking to your doctor about options, and taking an active role in preventing Type 2 diabetes by taking on healthier life habits.
Main Line Health is home to a Bariatric Center of Excellence at Bryn Mawr Hospital. To find out if you are a candidate for bariatric surgery, attend one of our upcoming information sessions.