Surgery helps stop diabetes, study finds

Doctors are reporting a new benefit from weight-loss surgery – preventing diabetes. Far fewer obese people developed that disease if they had stomach-shrinking operations rather than usual care to try to slim down, a large study in Sweden found.

The results, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, are provoking fresh debate about when adjustable bands and other bariatric procedures should be offered.

It is “provocative and exciting” that surgery can prevent diabetes, but it is “impractical and unjustified” to think of doing it on millions of obese adults, Dr. Danny Jacobs, a Duke University surgeon, wrote in a commentary in the journal.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, bariatric surgery chief at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, disagreed.

“If surgery is the only treatment we have, we have to accept the cost ramifications of that” and give up “the naive notion” that we can just teach severely obese people how to lose weight, said Roslin, who consults for some makers of bariatric surgery equipment.

Weight-loss surgery costs $15,000 to $25,000, and Medicare often covers it for diabetics. Proponents note that complications of diabetes and obesity are expensive, too.

Millions of Americans have Type 2 diabetes brought on by obesity. Earlier this year, two studies showed that obesity surgery can reverse diabetes and keep it away for many years. The new study went a step further, to see if it could prevent diabetes in the first place among people who are obese.

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