In the first published study of its kind, researchers from the Catholic University/Policlinico Gemelli in Rome, Italy, and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center found that bariatric surgery dramatically outperforms standard medical treatment of severe type 2 diabetes.
These findings were published March 27 in an advanced online edition of the New England Journal Medicine (NEJM).
The study’s authors report that most bariatric surgery patients were able to discontinue all diabetes medications and maintain disease remission for the two-year study period, while none of those randomly assigned to receive standard medical treatment did.
“Although bariatric surgery was initially conceived as a treatment for weight loss, it is now clear that surgery is an excellent approach for the treatment of diabetes and metabolic disease,” says senior author Dr. Francesco Rubino, chief of Gastrointestinal Metabolic Surgery and director of the Metabolic and Diabetes Surgery Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and associate professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.
It is particularly challenging to treat obese patients who have type 2 diabetes, because insulin therapy and other hypoglycemic medications often cause additional weight gain. In this study, most surgery patients experienced improvements in blood sugar levels, decreased total cholesterol and triglycerides, and improved HDL-cholesterol concentrations. This suggests that bariatric surgery for the treatment of diabetes may reduce a patient’s cardiovascular risk.
“The unique ability of surgery to improve blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels as well as reduce weight makes it an ideal approach for obese patients with type 2 diabetes,” says lead author Dr. Geltrude Mingrone, chief of the Division of Obesity and Metabolic Diseases and professor of medicine at Catholic University in Rome.
Click here to read in ‘Science Daily’ how the study was conducted
Short-term complications and death rates were low following bariatric surgery to limit the amount of food that can enter the stomach, decrease absorption of food or both, according to the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (LABS-1).
The study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. Results are reported in the July 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Less than 1 percent (0.3 percent) of patients died within 30 days of surgery, further supporting the short-term safety of bariatric surgery as a treatment for patients with extreme obesity.
Bariatric surgery can have dramatic health benefits — such as improved blood sugar control or even reversal of type 2 diabetes. But it also carries serious risks, including death. The LABS-1 study aimed to evaluate the short-term safety of bariatric surgery to help doctors and patients understand the risks.
“Evaluating the 30-day safety outcomes of bariatric surgery in large populations is an essential step forward,” according to co-author Myrlene Staten, M.D. senior advisor for diabetes translation research at NIDDK, part of NIH. “And LABS-1 data are from all patients who had their procedure performed by a surgeon participating in the study, not from just a select few patients.”
Various types of bariatric surgery limit food intake, nutrient absorption or both. The major types of surgery undergone by participants in this study included laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and open Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.
Gastric bands create a pouch around the top of the stomach to limit food intake at any one time. Gastric bypass also creates a pouch and redirects food around most of the stomach and part of the small intestine, limiting the absorption of food.
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