National Diabetes Month: What You Need to Know

By Nick Nicholson, MD

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. It affects nearly 30 million Americans, and in an estimated one-third of those cases, the diabetes is undiagnosed. Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes — a chronic in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is a weight-related condition that develops when the body becomes insulin resistant. This means the body either does not produce enough insulin or the body does not properly use what insulin is produced. According to the Obesity Society, nearly 90 percent of people living with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition that can lead to numerous health complications, including skin problems, nerve damage (neuropathy), cardiovascular disease, heart attack stroke, blindness and eye problems, kidney problems, amputations and more.

Can diabetes be prevented?

Type 2 diabetes may be preventable with lifestyle changes, such as weight management, regular exercise and a healthy diet. Studies have found that losing five to 10 percent of body weight can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes in adults who are high risk for the disease. Researchers have also found that weight loss surgery may deliver a more lasting method for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

While weight loss surgery isn’t necessarily a panacea, recent research indicates it can have a profound effect on diabetes symptoms in obese patients who undergo procedures to help them shed pounds. Some patients may even find the need to take diabetes medications to control blood sugar goes away after weight loss surgery helps rid them of extra pounds.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted by the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, researchers examined the potential benefits of bariatric surgery in the prevention or improvement of diabetes symptoms. To find out how big of an impact surgery could have on diabetics, researchers worked with a group of 61 obese diabetics ages 22 to 55. Researchers broke the main group into two smaller ones that would undergo different types of surgery and a third group that was prescribed lifestyle and exercise changes to control their symptoms.

Over the course of the study, researchers found that patients in the two surgical groups showed more marked improvements than those in the lifestyle group. About 40 percent of gastric bypass and 29 percent of adjustable band patients, in fact, were able to achieve complete or partial remission of diabetes symptoms over time.

The findings are especially encouraging for those who struggle both with their weight and control of diabetes symptoms. Weight loss surgery may indeed serve to help some reverse the impacts the disease has on their lives.

Maintaining weight is simply vital for diabetics who wish to gain an upper hand on this disease and its potential side effects. Surgical intervention can make a big difference for those deemed obese or morbidly obese.

If you’re dealing with diabetes or any other weight-related condition, consider talking with your doctor about your candidacy for bariatric surgery. By taking the steps to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, you can potentially eliminate a variety of life-changing and even life-threatening conditions.

About the Author

One of the most experienced weight loss surgeons in the country — Dr. Nick Nicholson — along with a full staff of surgeons, nurses and other experienced clinicians, help patients reverse obesity with LAP-BAND, Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy, Gastric Balloon and Revisions.