Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne have found that weight-loss surgery works much better than standard medical therapy as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes in obese people, the New York Times reports today. This is the first study to compare the two approaches.
The study of 60 patients showed that 73 percent of those who had surgery had complete remissions of diabetes, meaning all signs of the disease went away. By contrast, the remission rate was only 13 percent in those given conventional treatment, which included intensive counseling on diet and exercise for weight loss, and, when needed, diabetes medicines like insulin, metformin and other drugs.
In the study, the surgery worked better because patients who had it lost much more weight than the medically treated group did — 20.7 percent versus 1.7 percent of their body weight, on average. Type 2 diabetes is usually brought on by obesity, and patients can often lessen the severity of the disease, or even get rid of it entirely, by losing about 10 percent of their body weight. Though many people can lose that much weight, few can keep it off without surgery.
Cost and coverage for the surgery are factors, the article continued:
Medicare covers weight-loss surgery according to [National Institute of Health] rules, but many private insurers refuse to cover the surgery at all, said Dr. Philip Schauer, director of the bariatric and metabolic institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He said his center had to turn away three or four patients for every one accepted because insurers would not pay.