Study: Obesity surgery reverses diabetes

Cheryl Bishop's weight has been a life-long battle.

"I was always the chunky kid. It just got progressively worse and worse and worse until it was out of control," said Bishop.

At 44, she weighed 350 pounds and struggled with Type 2 diabetes.

"It was horrible. It got to the point where I knew I had to have the surgery or I wasn't going to live," said Bishop.

Cheryl had bariatric surgery. Surgeons sectioned off a small pouch of her stomach and attached it to her intestine. The goal is weight loss, but surgeons like Dr. Michel Murr discovered another dramatic effect: Cheryl's Type 2 diabetes disappeared.

"There's a function of the stomach that we don't understand very well, but as soon as we divert food away from it, the diabetics control their blood sugar much, much easier," said Dr. Murr.

Studies show up to 90-percent of diabetics go into remission after bariatric surgery.

"I went from taking 100 units of insulin three times a day with blood sugar still 200, 300 plus. Within a week after surgery, probably none," said Bishop.

Right now bariatric surgery is only for the extremely obese, but doctors believe it could be the key to reversing Type 2 diabetes, regardless of a person's weight.

"We may be looking into this as one of the treatments for diabetics," said Dr. Murr.

Now that Cheryl is 130 pounds lighter she is enjoying her new life -- one that's healthier and diabetes free.

"It's gone. The diabetes is gone," said Bishop.

Web Extra Information: Weight-Loss Surgery: A Cure For Diabetes?


According to the American Diabetes Association, the most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. A person suffering from the condition does not produce enough insulin, which is required for the body to turn glucose into energy. Insulin moves glucose from the blood into cells, but if glucose builds up, cells may be starved for energy. Type 2 diabetes can also affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for the disease. Excess weight and physical inactivity both contribute to insulin resistance. The International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) found approximately 58 percent of diabetes worldwide is due to a BMI above 21 kg/m2. In western countries, that figure jumps to about 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases.


Bariatric Surgery has become a mainstream procedure for obese individuals who have not been able to lose weight through diet and exercise. The treatment works by changing the anatomy of the digestive system, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold. The most common bariatric surgery is gastric bypass. In 2005, roughly 140,000 Americans sought the procedure, which has been performed since the 1950s. Many surgeons prefer this surgery because they say it's safer and has fewer complications.


While the procedure can help patients lose weight, it may also help reduce the incidence of diabetes. Studies have shown about 80 percent of diabetics go into complete remission following the operation. Some patients have seen results just days after the procedure, even before losing a significant amount of weight. Francesco Rubino, M.D., chief of gastrointestinal metabolic surgery at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, N.Y., sought to find out the cause of this phenomenon.

After performing bypass on diabetic rats, he discovered when the top of the small intestine is disconnected, the duodenum, diabetes disappears. When the duodenum is reattached, the disease returns. He concluded that preventing food from traveling through the duodenum can reverse diabetes, independent from weight loss. Clinical trials are currently taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on diabetics who are not obese to find out if the procedure is safe and effective for those individuals. Currently, people with diabetes who are not obese cannot get bariatric surgery; only morbidly obese patients can. Morbidly obese people are typically 100 pounds overweight.

In addition to diabetes, bariatric surgery offers other health benefits to patients as well. Some experts estimate that roughly 100,000 people in the United States die every year from cancer due to their weight.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found those who undergo bariatric surgery have about an 85 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer and a 70 percent reduction in the risk of colon cancer.



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