While there are many obesity-linked diseases, perhaps none is as dangerous and as common as diabetes. The risk for diabetes increases dramatically the higher your body mass index, or BMI, as those struggling with morbid obesity that has a BMI over 40 are 600% times more likely to have diabetes than those with a BMI in the “normal” weight range, and countless more have pre-diabetes and other related diseases.
But for many, diabetes can be cured. When diabetes is caused by obesity, those that are able to lose a substantial amount of weight can often control the severity of their diabetes, and in some cases cure it altogether. The problem is that lifestyle interventions alone, such as diet and exercise, have a 95% failure rate within one year – meaning that most traditional weight loss efforts fail.
Bariatric Surgery as a Diabetes Cure
Weight loss surgery – especially gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch – promote an average of between 60% and 70% excess weight loss, with some patients losing 100% of their excess weight in the process. The failure rate is very low as well. Only 6% of patients that receive duodenal switch, for example, fail to lose at least 50% of their excess body weight.
But of course, weight loss alone is often not the goal. For many, bariatric surgery is critical for fighting obesity-associated diseases, such as diabetes. And the success rate of weight loss surgery on diabetes patients is significant.
According to a meta-analysis of numerous studies, 86% of patients that lost at least 55% of their excess body weight saw their fasting blood glucose return to near-normal levels, and their Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels return to “normal” and healthier levels. Only 14% of bariatric surgery patients still struggled with diabetes, and many of them still saw some symptom improvements. In most cases, patients no longer need to take any of their diabetes-related medications to see these improvements.
Perhaps most importantly, diabetes-related mortalities decreased by 92%.
Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery on Diabetes Are Instant
What is even more interesting about bariatric surgery is that many patients found that their diabetes was reduced – and sometimes cured – within only a few days after surgery, and well before any weight loss has occurred. This means that it is not weight loss alone that contributes to diabetes reduction. It may be weight loss combined with other factors unique to weight loss surgery, such as:
- Decreased food intake.
- Reduced nutrient absorption.
- Changes to the gastrointestinal tract.
Researchers are still not entirely sure what may be helping insulin levels return to normal so soon after bariatric surgery, but it does help continue to paint a picture that indicates that weight loss surgery can fight and cure diabetes far better than diet and exercise alone.
Risks and Benefits of Bariatric Surgery as a Diabetes Cure
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and drastically reduces an individual’s quality of life. Diet and exercise alone are rarely enough to cure the diseases. Bariatric surgery has perhaps the highest success rate for reducing diabetes, and those benefits may not be limited to weight loss alone.
Whether you should consider bariatric surgery a cure for your diabetes remains a decision between you and your doctor. Surgery does carry risks. But for many, diabetes is only one of the many benefits of weight loss surgery and combined it often makes considerable sense to consider the procedures for their health and quality of life.