Recent research has sparked ongoing debate about whether bariatric surgery is a fix for type 2 diabetes. Researchers are conducting studies to determine if this surgery can halt or prevent diabetes. Learn more about bariatric surgery and what researchers have discovered about its connection with type 2 diabetes.

  • Bariatric surgery physically shrinks the stomach to help severely obese people lose weight. Severe obesity (a BMI over 40) is a chronic condition that can be difficult to treat with diet and exercise alone. Bariatric surgery is done on the stomach and/or intestines. It restricts the intake of food or interrupts how food is digested. Most candidates cannot lose weight any other way. It can be done with banding which is less invasive or with surgical removal of a portion of the stomach/intestines with staples. Stomach stapling is more invasive and permanent. These surgeries require some prior psychological testing since it can have a dramatic impact on your life. You and your physician will decide which procedure is best for you. Most candidates who have these surgeries have multiple health problems including diabetes. After surgery, people must eat a healthy diet with reduced portions and exercise regularly. These procedures require constant follow up and one needs to keep all appointments to reduce future problems.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported on a large study in Sweden. It showed fewer people developed type 2 diabetes after having bariatric surgery. The study indicated obesity surgery can reverse diabetes, keep it away for years and possibly prevent people from getting the disease.
  • The study was done at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. It followed patients who had stomach stapling or bands as well as patients receiving diet counseling and traditional care. None of the patients had diabetes at the onset of the study. After ten years, researchers found the surgery reduced the odds of developing diabetes by 78 percent.
  • Another study done at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona showed one-fifth of those cured through bariatric surgery suffered a recurrence within five years. Some of them did not gain weight. The study suggested that those who had the disease the longest were more at risk for recurrence of diabetes. Early intervention could play a role in keeping diabetes permanently away.
  • Immediate side effects of bariatric surgery can include infection, diarrhea, bleeding, leaks from the surgery site and blood clots in the legs that can move to the heart and lungs. In some patients, nutrients are poorly absorbed which may cause permanent damage. Patients are also subject to hernias or strictures. After bariatric surgery, patients are advised to seek emotional support to cope with the changes.
  • The cost of weight-loss surgery ranges from about $15,000 to $25,000. Often Medicare and private insurance covers this surgery for people with diabetes. The government just reduced weight limits for patients with heart disease or diabetes. It can be open surgery or done through laparoscopy. Bariatric surgery is considered major surgery with the associated risks, especially for those with high blood pressure or heart problems. Often patients are advised to use a blood pressure monitor to regularly check their blood pressure levels before and after surgery.
  • More research must be done to find out how bariatric surgery put diabetes into remission or prevents it. There is no substitute for lifestyle changes such as proper diet and exercise. Patients who have the surgery must follow these positive habits or risk developing diabetes again. There is no quick fix to permanently get rid of diabetes.
  • Bariatric surgery can help in the short-term but long-term lifestyle changes are inevitable for any treatment to be effective. Patients and their health care team must regularly monitor blood sugar levels. The cornerstones of basic diabetes management are still exercise, diet and consistency.

Bariatric surgery has shown great promise to help severely obese people with type 2 diabetes. While improvements and prevention have been noted in some cases, there is no quick fix to better health. Diet, exercise and consistent lifestyle changes play a major role in whether people get diabetes or experience a recurrence.