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Why gastric bypass surgery resolves type 2 diabetes

News | Adelaide Bariatric Centre

12 Aug 2013 3:11 PM

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For most people, it’s clear that the resolution of type-2 diabetes requires weight loss and controlled sugar intake. But for years, gastric bypass has also seemed to cure diabetes even before patients lost any weight. Scientists have never fully understood the healing power of the bypass, until now.

Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital last month discovered that gastric bypass causes the small intestine to change the body’s metabolism. After studying the effects of gastric bypass surgery on rats for a year, the team found that the small intestine actually reprograms itself to regulate glucose following surgery.

“We have seen type 2 diabetes resolve in humans after gastric bypass, but have never known why. People have been focusing on hormones, fat and muscle, but we have shown in this study that the answer lies somewhere in the small intestine most of the time,” said Dr Nicholas Stylopoulos, who led the study.

"Previously, we had not considered the intestine as a major glucose-utilising organ. (But) we have found this process is exactly what happens after surgery," he said.

Every single one of the rats studied was cured of diabetes after a gastric bypass, with 64% of cases solved by the intestine, and the rest due to other factors such as weight loss.

Is gastric bypass surgery a potential national solution?

Even if a person is genetically predisposed to eat more, become obese, and thus develop type 2 diabetes, gastric bypass is likely to resolve their disease. This makes the treatment a viable option for nearly anybody concerned about developing it.  

While doling out gastric bypasses isn’t part of the recently launched National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan, perhaps it should be, given this year’s daunting statistics released by Diabetes Australia.

“On current trends, diabetes will become the number one burden of disease in Australia in the next 5 years. Type 2 diabetes currently costs the Australian community $14.6 billion a year. This will double to $30 billion in 12 years if we don’t adopt stronger approaches to preventing diabetes and its complications,” said Diabetes Australia CEO Greg Johnson.

IMAGE CREDIT: Phalinn Ooi