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Local woman gains weight to get healthier

February 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Would you gain lots of weight to make your health worse on purpose?

A Rancho Cucamonga woman did just that, gaining 85 pounds so she would qualify for weight-loss surgery.

Four years ago, Rebecca Blair, 51, was taking five different medications to control Type 2 diabetes.

Besides drugs, she tried everything to get her blood sugar under control. Blair says one of the drugs she was taking was hurting her kidneys, so she was looking for alternatives.

One day she saw a documentary about gastric bypass surgery and how it helps patients with diabetes.

"There is definitely a biochemical change when you do gastric bypass surgery," said weight-loss surgeon Dr. Ted Khalili.

The theory is that rewiring the intestines changes the hormonal process, which reduces Type 2 diabetes.

Blair was intrigued and sought the help of Khalili, but there was one problem. She wasn't heavy enough to qualify.

"I didn't meet the requirements because my (body mass index) was low and not only would my insurance not pay for it, but his malpractice insurance wouldn't cover him or the hospital," Blair said.

Blair decided on her own to gain weight to qualify. She put on 85 pounds eating excessive amounts of cheese, butter and meat.

"We never encourage patients to gain weight because putting on weight usually worsens the diabetes and puts you at high risk for surgery," Khalili said.

When she returned to Khalili, she qualified.

Within a few months after the surgery, her need for medications dropped down to one drug. Soon doctors think she won't even need that.

"Her blood sugars are normal, so the effect has been dramatic but expected," the doctor said. "We knew her diabetes would get much better and it has."

The success of bariatric surgical procedures to reduce diabetes is well documented. That's why the Federal Drug Administration is considering lowering the weight requirement so more diabetics can take advantage of the surgery.

Until then, Khalili cautions that what Blair did is dangerous.

"It's very unhealthy, cardiovascular wise," he said. "It's bad for your heart. It's bad for your circulatory system."

Blair weighs 180 pounds, but even she agrees bariatric surgery is definitely not the answer for everyone.

If researchers can decipher how a gastric bypass resolves diabetes, doctors hope they'll be able to duplicate that hormonal process in a pill.