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Can weight-loss surgery help Type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes is a major cause of disability and death in the United States. The disease affects nearly 26 million Americans, and is a leading cause of stroke, kidney failure, eye problems, heart disease and other medical problems. Both diabetes itself and its associated problems are common reasons people apply for Social Security Disability and other disability benefits.

Treatment of this disease is challenging - drugs and insulin are often prescribed, along with weight loss and exercise. Unfortunately, few people are able to lose enough weight on their own to make a difference. That's why new results from a study of weight-loss surgery are encouraging.

Researchers are studying gastric bypass, which reduces the size of the stomach to a small pouch, and sleeve gastrectomy, which results in a less drastic reduction of the stomach size. Researchers compared these surgeries versus medication alone in 150 mildly obese people living with severe diabetes. The results showed that the surgeries were more effective for treating the combination of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The most recently released results showed that three years after the surgeries, more than 90 percent of the patients who had surgery required no insulin. Nearly half had needed it when the study began. Patients who were treated without surgery saw an increase in insulin use, from 52 percent to 53 percent.

Despite the promising results, the surgeries are not being called a cure since there are no guarantees that diabetes will not come back.

Still, a 55-year-old woman says her stomach-reduction surgery was a miracle. She was taking medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes before surgery. Now, she takes none.

Source: The Associated Press, "Surgery gives long-term help for obese diabetics," Marilynn Marchione, March 31, 2014

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