Surgery may be the best bet to reversing diabetes

March 28, 2012, 7:33 a.m.

Two new studies have found that weight-loss surgery is more effective in treating diabetes than standard remedies, and in some cases even completely reversed the disease. (Credit: ReSurge International/Flickr Creative Commons)

If you're a type 2 diabetic – like 13.9 percent of southside Angelenos were in 2007 – surgery may be your best bet to recovery.

That's according to two new studies, released on Monday, which found that weight-loss operations work much better than the standard treatment for type 2 diabetes in obese and overweight people.

The New York Times reports that people who had the surgery – which staples the stomach and reroutes the small intestine – were far more likely to have a complete remission of the disease or need less medication than those diabetics who kept to the typical therapies of drugs, diet and physical exercise.

Both studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. One found that in obese patients with "uncontrolled type 2 diabetes", one year of medical therapy plus the surgery achieved better results than the medical therapy alone. The other found than in severely obese patients with type 2 diabetes, the surgery had better results than medical therapy.

The studies provide a long-sought hard data link between surgery and diabetes control. Still, a debate remains on whether surgery with all of its risks and complications should be more widely used as a way to treat the disease, which the study called one of the "fastest-growing epidemics in human history," per the Times.

An article in the Associated Press called the results of surgery "dramatic," and said some diabetics are able to stop taking insulin as soon as three days after their surgeries.

John Buse, a leading diabetes expert, told the AP in the same article that the findings comprised a "major advance" and that they should convince doctors to at least consider the weight-loss surgery as an option to treating the illness.

The AP also reported that there were signs that the surgery itself played a role in the reversal of diabetes, because "food makes the gut produce hormones to spur insulin, so trimming part of it surgically could affect those hormones."

According to AP, more than eight percent of American adults have diabetes, putting South L.A. well above the national average. The question of access looms for the southside, though. Nina Vaccaro, the executive director of the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, called the area a "barren wasteland" when it comes to primary and specialty care, and a gathering last Friday attended by the U.S. secretary of labor underscored the difficulty in changing the level of access in South L.A. for the better.

Photo by ReSurge International via Flickr Creative Commons.

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