Weight loss surgery can reverse type 2 diabetes

For many, weight management is an important factor that helps support their overall health and well-being.

“Carrying extra weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Kevin Wasco, a general surgeon and co-director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics program. “In fact, 90% of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Many people understand that maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent this metabolic disease.”

Numerous studies have explored the relationship between weight and diabetes. New information suggests that weight loss surgery can possibly help improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes or even reverse the condition altogether.

It’s a popular topic among health care providers because the burden of diabetes continues to increase. Effective treatment options can help improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and reduce the strain of diabetes on the health care system. According to an American Diabetes Association Report, diabetes cost Americans $412.9 billion in 2022 alone.

“Weight loss surgery is one of the most promising solutions for addressing type 2 diabetes,” Wasco said.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that prevents your body from maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. People who have type 1 diabetes produce very little insulin or none at all. With type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin or the body stops responding to insulin the way it should.

Type 1 diabetes is often genetic, while type 2 diabetes results from lifestyle factors such as diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.

Without treatment, diabetes can cause many health issues. For example, high blood sugar can damage organs, nerves and tissues throughout the body. It can also lead to kidney problems, diabetic peripheral neuropathy and vision issues.

While there is no way to reverse or prevent type 1 diabetes, studies show that lifestyle changes and weight loss can help reduce symptoms and even reverse type 2 diabetes. Some interventions have better outcomes than others, with weight loss surgery leading the charge.

Weight loss surgery includes a variety of surgical interventions that can help people lose weight. People who qualify include those with a body mass index of 40 or higher, as well as people with a BMI of 35 or higher with at least one other significant health condition, such as type 2 diabetes.

“It is encouraging to see results in improving and often reversing type 2 diabetes in the patients we serve,” Wasco said. “The ThedaCare Bariatrics program has seen a 98% improvement or resolution from type 2 diabetes among our patients.”

Two types of weight loss surgery are available.

Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass restricts the size of the stomach by partially bypassing the small intestine. It provides the fastest and most complete loss of excess weight.

Gastric Sleeve Resection is sometimes a better choice for people with significant medical problems, this procedure removes approximately two-thirds of the stomach. It also allows for future procedures if a person regains weight.

On average, people will lose a total of 125 to 150 pounds within one year or later after weight loss surgery. Nearly 75% of patients maintain their significant weight loss after five years.

“We often hear that these procedures give people a second chance by improving their health and quality of life,” said Wasco.