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Weight Loss Surgery may keep diabetes and heart woes at bay for long periods of time -- and might even reverse some disease complications, new research suggests.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic looked at a group of people with diabetes who underwent weight loss, or bariatric, surgery to treat their obesity. After tracking patients for up to nine years after getting the procedure, the researchers found obesity-related health conditions like diabetes vanished for several of them.
Specifically, 80 percent of patients who had the surgeries met target blood sugar levels of 7 percent HbA1c, a level recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 30 percent of those who underwent a gastric bypass procedure experienced complete remission of diabetes that allowed them to stay off medication for at least five years, effectively curing them.
Obesity affects nearly 36 percent of Americans, raising their risk for related health conditions for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the U.S.
Obesity itself was declared a "disease" by the American Medical Association in June so doctors would tackle it with immediate treatment rather than look at it like a lifestyle condition that needs to modified. This study suggests bariatric surgery may be the cure for these conditions.
There are three main types of procedures: gastric bypass, gastric banding and what's called a sleeve gastrectomy. Most of the patients in Brethauer's study had underwent a gastric bypass, in which doctors create a small pouch by stapling a portion of the stomach together to limit how much food a person can eat. The procedures were not pitted against each other directly for this study.
Researchers looked at nearly 220 patients with Type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery between 2004 and 2007, and had been tracked for at least five years after.
They found reductions in high blood pressure and high cholesterol on top of drops in weight. All these factors at the same time comprise metabolic syndrome, a condition that raises risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Brethauer added that a subgroup of patients had early stages of kidney disease when they underwent their surgical procedure. High blood pressure and diabetes are major risk factors for kidney disease. Following bariatric surgery, almost all of these patients' kidney disease had stabilized or reversed entirely.
The researchers want to see if bariatric surgery can reverse other diabetes-related conditions, like eyesight or nerve problems. Previous studies of weight loss surgeries have also reported protective benefits against obesity-related chronic diseases.