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Understanding Diabetes and Weight-Loss Surgery

Weight-loss surgery as a treatment for type 2 diabetes

Weight-loss surgery, or bariatric surgery, has been found to have a profoundly positive effect on the health of obese individuals who have type 2 diabetes. Severely obese people with type 2 diabetes are reversing their diabetes and reducing or eliminating the need for diabetes medications through weight-loss surgery.

Currently, bariatric surgery appears to be the only intervention that consistently results in substantial and sustained weight loss in people who are extremely obese, and it has been linked to remission of diabetes, decreases in cardiovascular risk factors, and a significant reduction in mortality over time.” – NIDDK on the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery.

Understanding diabetes and the role of insulin

Let’s back up. Type 2 diabetes is a complicated disease involving multiple factors working against - or resisting – insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is necessary for survival. It enables the body to make use of the food energy we consume by allowing glucose (which is what most of the food we eat turns into during digestion) to pass from the blood stream into our cells. Without insulin, the blood becomes toxic with high levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia).

bulletDiabetes care at UC San Diego Health System.

Type 1 diabetes

Individuals who do not produce any insulin have type 1 diabetes. Less than 10 percent of the 26 million Americans with diabetes have type 1. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump. Surgery is not a treatment for type 1 diabetes and obesity is not a risk factor for type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity and family history of diabetes. About 50 percent of men and 70 percent of women with type 2 diabetes are obese.

Through lifestyle intervention (weight loss and exercise) clinical trials have shown that type 2 can be prevented or delayed. In addition, when an obese person already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes loses the excess weight, there is an undeniably beneficial impact on blood sugar control.

A person with type 2 diabetes experiences high blood sugar when the body makes less insulin than it needs, or the body resists the insulin that it does produce. It’s not completely understood why this happens. It is suggested that stress on the body caused by obesity “burns out” the body’s ability to produce sufficient insulin. In addition, individuals predisposed to type 2 diabetes may have other digestive hormone imbalances that impede the function of insulin.

bulletLearn more about type 2 diabetes and how we treat it at UC San Diego.

The devastating impact of high blood sugar

High blood sugar is deadly – and it is the same for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar causes kidney failure, hypertension, heart disease, depression, amputation due to complications from diabetic nerve disease, and it is the leading cause of blindness. In addition, high blood sugar makes many people feel lethargic and sick.

bulletMore on diabetes complications.

Surgical weight loss as a treatment for type 2 diabetes

Significant weight loss resulting in improved glycemic control can save an individual from the effects of high blood sugar. But losing weight is difficult.

As the region’s only academic medical center, UC San Diego Health System is developing and performing advanced surgical treatments for obesity including minimally invasive:

These surgeries are giving people back their lives, and stopping the clock on the devastating impact of diabetes. The data is overwhelmingly. Study after study has shown that nearly 80 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes who have bariatric surgery have significantly improved blood sugar control.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year showed that patients who underwent bariatric surgery were more than three times more likely to gain control over their diabetes after one year than the group that was treated with medication.

It is important to consider the risks when facing any surgery. The team at the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute will carefully evaluate your situation and help you determine if weight-loss surgery is a healthy option for you.

Take the next step in your weight-loss journey.

Call us today at 858-657-8860.