Weight loss surgery, which in recent years has been seen as an increasingly attractive option for treating Type 2 diabetes, may not be as effective against the disease as it was initially thought to be, according to a new report. The study found that many obese Type 2 diabetics who undergo gastric bypass surgery do not experience a remission of their disease, and of those that do, about a third redevelop diabetes within five years of their operation.
The findings contrast with the growing perception that surgery is essentially a cure for Type II diabetes. The latest study, published in the journal Obesity Surgery, tracked thousands of diabetics who had gastric bypass surgery for more than a decade. It found that many people whose diabetes at first went away were likely to have it return. While weight regain is a common problem among those who undergo bariatric surgery, regaining lost weight did not appear to be the cause of diabetes relapse. Instead, the study found that people whose diabetes was most severe or in its later stages when they had surgery were more likely to have a relapse, regardless of whether they regained weight.
“Some people are under the impression that you have surgery and you’re cured,” said Dr. Vivian Fonseca, president for medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association, who was not involved in the study. “There have been a lot of claims about how wonderful surgery is for diabetes, and I think this offers a more realistic picture.”
The findings suggest that weight loss surgery may be most effective for treating diabetes in those whose disease is not very advanced. “What we’re learning is that not all diabetic patients do as well as others,” said Dr. David E. Arterburn, the lead author of the study and an associate investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. “Those who are early in diabetes seem to do the best, which makes a case for potentially earlier intervention.”
In the study, 4,434 obese adult diabetics who had undergone Roux-en-Y operations – the most popular type of gastric bypass procedure – were studied.