Diet more important than surgery for diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on April 4, 2013

Traffic light labelling enables people to make healthy eating choices

Diet more important than surgery for diabetics

People with type 2 diabetes who consume a diet identical to the strict regime followed by people who have had bariatric surgery are just as likely to see a reduction in blood glucose levels as those who undergo surgery, researchers have found.

A study at the University of Texas South Western Medical Center in Dallas followed 10 people in a controlled, inpatient setting. Initially they were treated only with the standard diet given to patients after bariatric surgery, while researchers measured effects on blood glucose levels. Several months later, the patients underwent the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass bariatric surgery and followed the same diet while their blood glucose levels were monitored. Patients received less than 2,000 calories in total during each of these 10 day periods, which is the customary diet after gastric bypass surgery.

‘For years, the question has been whether it is the bariatric surgery or a change in diet that causes the diabetes to improve so rapidly after surgery,” said Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, assistant professor of internal medicine and first author of the study. ‘We found that the reduction of patients’ calorie intake following bariatric surgery is what leads to the major improvements in diabetes, not the surgery itself,’ he explained.

Fasting blood glucose levels dropped 21% on average during the diet only phase, and 12% after combining the diet with surgery. Patients’ overall blood glucose levels, after a standard meal, decreased by 15% in the diet only phase and 18% after combining diet with surgery. The scientists said the results demonstrate that the extremely restrictive diet imposed after bariatric surgery is responsible for the rapid diabetes remission, which normally occurs within days of the procedure.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Living in a state of ketosis is not something I’m familiar with beyond the few things I’ve read on the forum. On the face of it, it sounds like an interesting approach to controlling diabetes.”

‘Unfortunately, such a restrictive diet is nearly impossible to adhere to long term in the absence of bariatric surgery,’ said Dr. Lingvay. ‘We found that the success of bariatric surgery is mediated through its ability to control food intake, which in turn has a beneficial effect on diabetes,’ he added.

Type 2 diabetes often develops as a result of obesity and occurs because the body cannot meet the high demand of insulin imposed by obesity and insulin resistance. The American Diabetes Association estimates that more than 20 million people in the US have type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, the diabetes can lead to other conditions such heart disease and stroke, as well as nerve and kidney damage.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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