Bariatric surgery helps with more than weight loss

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Type 2 diabetes affects about 26 million Americans and this number continues to increase. A new study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that gastric bypass surgery (in which parts of the stomach and small intestine are bypassed, allowing less time and surface area for food digestion) can reverse pancreatic damage that often accompanies Type 2 diabetes, and produce better outcomes than medication alone.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic conducted a trial involving 150 patients: one-third received gastric bypass, one-third received a device similar to a lap band to reduce stomach volume, and the rest were treated with medication. One of the study authors, Dr. Philip Schauer, said the results were dramatic. Many of our patients, even within hours of the operation, their blood sugar becomes normal ¦even before they ve lost any weight at all. And in a one-year follow-up study, the results were found to persist.

Although neither surgeons nor endocrinologists are sure how the surgery affects the hormone balance in the body to produce these results, they speculate that it may be due to the fact that gastric bypass surgery targets belly fat where the hormones that are toxic to the body are produced.
And we might be seeing more of these surgeries if the diabetes cannot be controlled in other ways, despite the high price tag of $25,000. In reality, this number is likely to be far exceeded by the medical costs of many diabetes patients due to complications such as kidney problems, heart attacks, strokes, arthritis, and amputations.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented Bypassing parts of the stomach and intestine are known to affect the output of certain gastrointestinal hormones; this is a likely factor in the amelioration of the diabetes and pancreatic dysfunction.

On a related note, a study conducted at the University of Michigan investigating post-operative bariatric surgery complications from 2004 to 2009 found that complications were not reduced by a Medicare policy limiting surgeries to Centers for Excellence, when compared to outcomes among non-Medicare patients who had no such restrictions on venue. The Centers for Excellence refer to hospitals with specific equipment and medical teams certified by the American College of Surgeons or the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Instead, Dr. Justin Dimick, who led the study, says that these reductions in complications were due to less-invasive surgical techniques and better surgeon training.