LENEXA, Kan. -- You'd think that the primary reason to have weight loss surgery would be to lose weight. But there's a different reason why more people are doing it and with excellent results.
A size 4X t-shirt used to fit Cheryl Gatica snugly.
"Now I'm an extra large," said Gatica as she showed her old t-shirt.
Eighteen months ago, Gatica weighed 300 pounds. She's pleased to have lost 95. But that's not the primary reason she had weight loss surgery.
"I didn't do it for the weight. I did it for the diabetes," she said.
Gatica wanted to eliminate her need for insulin shots. She wanted to get rid of the discomfort and expense of the shots along with her anxiety over wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels. So she chose gastric bypass surgery with Shawnee Mission Health.
"The evidence is really becoming overwhelming that the number one treatment for obese patients with type two diabetes is bariatric surgery,"
said Dr. Robert Aragon, a bariatric surgeon.
A new small study published in JAMA Surgery adds to the evidence. It found that three years after having gastric bypass, two out of three patients no longer needed the insulin or oral medication they were on before surgery. All of those who relied on diet and exercise alone still needed it. Dr. Aragon says even before weight loss occurs, the surgery is changing hormones in the gut.
"The body kinda resets its normal way of doing things in the gut, and that leads to control of the blood sugar," the surgeon said.
Before surgery, Gatica needed five to seven insulin shots a day.
"For months now, I haven't had to do an injection," she said.
Although Gatica still needs to take diabetes pills, she's thrilled to no longer need insulin.
The study found benefit even for less obese patients, a group that hasn't been studied much before. Overall, partial or complete remission of type two diabetes was seen in 40% of those who had gastric bypass. The study also looked at a different surgery, gastric banding, and found it wasn't as beneficial.