A small trial has further raised hopes that people with type-2 diabetes could improve their life expectancy by having surgery instead of the current drugs and diet regime.
The study, which was published in The Lancet, and involved 60 people, found that weight loss surgery “cured” half of the participants for at least five years. What’s more, these people were less likely to experience heart problems, a common side effect of diabetes, and reported a better quality of life.
By contrast, none of the people involved in the study were been cured by medication and diet alone.
The surgery “rewired” the participants digestive tract, reducing the size of the stomach and leaving less of the intestines exposed to food. The procedure improves symptoms both through weight loss and by changing the way the gut functions.
Prof Francesco Rubino, who operated on the patients, told the BBC News website: “Surgery is able to produce prolonged remission in 50 per cent of cases, patients get to levels of blood sugar that is non-diabetes for five years.”
While it’s true some patients still technically had type-2 diabetes, most were now able to control the disease.
“Eighty per cent who had surgery were able to maintain ‘optimal control’ [of blood sugar] despite only taking one drug or nothing at all,” said Professor Rubino.
The results were best two years after surgery, with some patients relapsing in the last three years. For all patients who had the surgery, monitoring of blood sugars would need to continue.
At least a million Australians have type-2 diabetes, and as the rate of the condition soars, the hunt is on to find a solution – for the health of those involved and also to soften the blow to the health system.
“Treating surgically, rather than medical therapy, appears more cost-effective, as there is less use of medication,” said Professor Rubino.
Drs Dimitri Pournaras and Carel le Roux, from Imperial College London, said diabetes was “the plague of the 21st Century” and that the results were “remarkable”.
“Surgery for diabetes seems to be safe, effective in terms of glycaemic [sugar] control, and is now associated with reduced complications of diabetes. The ultimate question is whether diabetes surgery is associated with reduced mortality.”
The team from King’s College, London and the Universita Cattolica in Rome said the results were “remarkable” and that too few people were getting access to the surgery.
Could this be the solution for this growing health condition? If you have type-2 diabetes, what kids of treatments are you using?