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Bariatric Surgery: New Hope for Obese Diabetes Patients

The obesity epidemic continues to be an issue in the United States, with roughly one-third of US adults currently obese. Fortunately, researchers are making strides in finding better ways to care for obese patients with type-2 diabetes.

Patients with diabetes are unable to properly regulate their blood sugar levels, which is aggravated further by being overweight or obese. High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes puts patients at a greater risk for having serious complications including heart attacks, strokes, renal failure, neuropathy, and even blindness. Weight loss and healthy eating are recommended for patients with type-2 diabetes, but in obese patients it can be difficult to control blood sugar levels with lifestyle intervention alone. Medical therapy and bariatric surgery, which involves a procedure to reduce the size of the stomach, are two alternative options for these patients. However, there was little information available regarding which was more effective in treating diabetes in obese patients until researchers at the Cleveland Clinic studied outcomes between these therapies.

In a randomized-controlled trial known as STAMPEDE, Cleveland Clinic investigators compared bariatric surgery with medical therapy to medical therapy alone to see which was better for treatment of type-2 diabetes. They found that bariatric surgery proved to be very effective for managing and even reversing diabetes in many cases. Of the 150 obese patients in the study, 42% had normal blood sugar levels one year after their surgery, compared to only 12% of patients who were treated with medical therapy alone. After following these patients for five years, they saw that bariatric surgery continued to be a better long-term management strategy for obese type-2 diabetes patients compared to medical therapy alone.

Findings from this study provide hope for obese patients with diabetes. Bariatric surgery could help reduce the risk of complications and even death for this patient population. Keep in mind that there are risks associated with the surgery, and it is generally not recommended for patients over 70 years of age or those trying to get pregnant. If you are considering surgery to help manage your diabetes, be sure to discuss this option with your doctor. Results from the study can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine.


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