Weight loss surgery more effective than medication in controlling type 2 diabetes

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Weight loss surgery is effective than medication in controlling type 2 diabetes in obese people, a new research has found.

In the new study, a team of scientists from the King’s College London and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Italy conducted a five-year research to find out the difference between the effects of conventional medical treatment and weight loss surgery  in controlling type 2 diabetes in the long term.

In 2009, the researchers followed a group of diabetic patients from Italy aged 30-60 with a body-mass index (BMI) of 35 kg/m² or more. They randomly assigned 20 obese patients with type 2 diabetes to receive medical treatment, 20 to receive a type of weight-loss surgery called a gastric bypass, and another 20 to undergo a weight-loss operation called a biliopancreatic diversion.

At the time of the five-year follow-up, researchers found that of the 60 patients enrolled on the trial, 53 completed the five-year follow-up which looked at the durability of diabetes remission, defined as achievement of a glycated haemaglobin A1c (HbA1c) concentration of 6.5 per cent or less without the need for drugs for at least one year. Eighty per cent of patients who had surgery had their blood sugar under good long-term control, versus about 25 per cent of patients treated with drugs only.

It was found that fifty per cent of the surgical patients maintained diabetes remission at five years, compared with none of the conventionally treated patients. Even regardless of the remission rates, surgical patients had a lower average level of blood glucose than medically treated ones. Surgery was also linked to better quality-of-life scores. There was no mortality and no major long-term complications after surgery.

“The ability of surgery to greatly reduce the need for insulin and other drugs suggests that surgical therapy is a cost-effective approach to treating type 2 diabetes,” said Professor Francesco Rubino, senior author of this study and Chair of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at King’s College London and a Consultant Surgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, UK, in a press release.

Rubino added that “Physicians should strongly consider surgery as an important option for long-term control of diabetes. In addition, insurance companies and third-party payers should consider reviewing the coverage of bariatric surgery in their standard insurance policy.”