Controlling type 2 diabetes is an enormous task for anyone, especially for people who are obese or may have difficulty eating healthily. Previous studies have shown that weight loss surgeries can help obese people control their diabetes, but a new study has shown that surgery could even drive their diabetes into remission.

“Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart and kidney disease,” said Dr. Stacy Brethauer, lead author of the study and a bariatric surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, according to HealthDay. “Only about half of diabetics in the United States currently have acceptable control of their blood glucose level.”

The study followed 217 obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Of them, 162 patients underwent gastric bypass surgery, which makes the stomach smaller and changes the way it operates, 32 had gastric banding, which involves placing a band around the stomach to make it smaller, and 23 had a sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure in which a large portion of the stomach is removed.  

Six years later, 80 percent of participants were able to maintain control over their blood glucose levels. Furthermore, about one third of those who underwent gastric bypass surgery maintained normal glucose levels while being off their medication. Overall, 50 percent of all patients’ diabetes had gone into remission, with 24 percent in complete remission and 26 percent in partial remission.

“This study confirms that the procedure can offer durable remission of diabetes in some patients and should be considered as an earlier treatment option for patients with uncontrolled diabetes,” Brethauer said.

Another recent study also found that gastric bypass surgery helped obese patients control their diabetes. Specifically, it helped more than twice as many people control their diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol, compared to those who underwent intensive medical and lifestyle treatment.

Type 2 diabetes affects about 8.3 percent of American children and adults, according to the American Diabetes Association. Each year, almost 1.9 million new cases are diagnosed adults ages 20 and up, and about 231,000 people die annually from diabetes-related causes.

Source: Brethauer S, Aminian A, Batayyah E, et al. Can Diabetes Be Surgically Cured? Long-Term Metabolic Effects of Bariatric Surgery in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Annals of Surgery. 2013.