Could weight loss surgery cure diabetes? We’ve been hearing talk of this for several years now and the Cleveland Clinic is publicizing the findings of their latest study that shows WLS is reversing Type 2 diabetes in patients. Still, researchers are reluctant to start bandying the C word about. Calling surgery a cure would be a huge leap. Click here for an article. It does not appear to be happening just because the surgery helps the patients drop significant weight. Study participants who dropped weight without surgery and who used medication did not have the same favorable level of results in the long-term. It’s believed that hormonal changes brought on by the cutting and re-routing of the stomach and intestine are contributing to the improvement. Gastric bypass, which shortens and repositions the small intestine, is showing better long-term results than vertical sleeve gastrectomy which only reduces the size of the stomach. Gastric banding, which physically constricts the size of the stomach with a silicone band, was not included in the study.
Obesity-driven Type 2 diabetes can trap a person into a vicious cycle. As your body becomes more insulin resistant, managing your weight becomes even more difficult and medication can make it WORSE. When my blood sugar started rising, I went on medication that caused me to gain 22 lbs in one month. I used to work with a colleague whose struggle with his weight became seemingly insurmountable after he was diagnosed and went on medication. He even wanted to go off his medication as he became increasingly desperate to get his weight down. He managed to get down about 100 lbs but even when I see him nowadays, he still seems to be stuck around the high 200s.
Type 2 diabetes can be one symptom of Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of conditions that can come on like an attack. After years of being seriously overweight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood triglycerides, and blood sugar can all start to rise. Symptoms of asthma may start with night wheezing. Fat accumulates in the liver causing a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver. Women may experience serious hormonal imbalances. At its worst, Metabolic Syndrome advances to full-blown Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. Once these conditions take hold, they can only be managed by medication. With significant weight loss, they will all clear up but a diabetes diagnosis marks you for life.
Weight loss surgery can be truly life-saving and it’s way beyond time when it must be routinely covered by insurance. It would take establishing standard qualifying criteria based on medical condition NOT going on a diet for a year or losing some particular amount of weight before surgery. Overweight people should not be forced to “prove” they are worthy of treatment. There is no other medical condition for which treatment is withheld, delayed, or made contingent on arbitrary stipulations because of assumptions made about a person’s character. Bottom line, fat people are assumed to be weak and undisciplined and deserving of the burdens of weight as a justifiable penalty. They are considered unworthy of any treatment that might be perceived (quite wrongly) as an “easy way out” and deserving of doing penance for what’s considered their deliberately gluttonous transgressions. Even other fat people who lose weight without surgery think they are somehow better than those whose conditions indicated surgery. This is the result of our culture’s deep disgust for what are perceived as the character flaws that are assumed to “make” a person fat and the false assumption that weight loss surgery allows a fat person to avoid taking responsibility. This is fat shaming at its most vicious and it must end.
Weight loss surgery supports people to a new life. It imposes lifestyle changes that are immediate and which must be maintained consistently but the key is it makes these changes possible. Millions of people have been “cured” of the debilitating effects of serious obesity through surgery. Does weight loss surgery cure diabetes? If Type 2 diabetes is reversed and maybe even cured then weight loss surgery must be made available to anyone whose medical condition would indicate it.