New research suggests weight-loss surgery might be better than drugs at controlling a type of diabetes. A Cleveland Clinic study found that people who had the surgery were much more likely after a year to have control of type 2 diabetes. Those who didn’t have the surgery in the study got an advanced form of a non-insulin medication treatment.
One of the scientists said improvement in blood sugar readings occurred within “days and hours” of the surgery. He noted that many of the weight loss surgery patients left the hospital with normal blood sugar readings. Results of the study are published in the “New England Journal of Medicine.”
Doctors don’t like to say “cure” because they can’t promise a disease will never come back. But in one study, most surgery patients were able to stop all diabetes drugs and have their disease stay in remission for at least two years. None of those treated with medicines alone could do that.
“It is a major advance,” said Dr. John Buse of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a leading diabetes expert who had no role in the studies. Buse said he often recommends surgery to patients who are obese and can’t control their blood-sugar through medications, but many are leery of it. “This evidence will help convince them that this really is an important therapy to at least consider,” he said.
There were signs that the surgery itself â€” not just weight loss â€” helps reverse diabetes. Food makes the gut produce hormones to spur insulin, so trimming away part of it surgically may affect those hormones, doctors believe.
Weight-loss surgery “has proven to be a very appropriate and excellent treatment for diabetes,” said one study co-leader, Dr. Francesco Rubino, chief of diabetes surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “The most proper name for the surgery would be diabetes surgery.”