lso see improvements in their blood sugar levels and a decrease in medication utilization.
Learn more about bariatric surgery, how it works, and why it’s a recommended treatment option for some people with diabetes.
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The Connection Between Weight and Diabetes
Being significantly overweight, with a body mass index (BMI) over 30, increases your risk of many chronic diseases including diabetes. Carrying excess weight makes it harder for your insulin to work. This leads to a condition known as “insulin resistance” and, if weight loss is not achieved, will eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
Losing weight is one of the best ways to manage diabetes and reduce your risk of stroke and heart problems. But as anyone overweight knows, losing weight can be hard, and keeping it off can be even harder. Diabetes and many of the medications used to treat it can make it harder still.
If you have diabetes but struggle to lose weight and keep it off, weight loss surgery may help. This surgery can reverse insulin resistance so that blood sugar and insulin levels improve or may normalize. As a result, many people can take less diabetes medication or even eliminate it.
Weight Loss Surgery Benefits for People with Diabetes
Diabetes tends to worsen over time, causing higher blood sugar levels and greater challenges managing your blood sugar even when taking your medications properly. If your blood sugar isn’t well-controlled with medicine, diet, and lifestyle changes, your doctor may recommend weight loss surgery. Research shows this surgery benefits people with diabetes by:
- Reducing blood sugar over the long term.
- Reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Keeping your blood vessels healthy.
- Improving your quality of life.
- Decreasing the risk of some types of cancer.
Studies on weight loss surgery and diabetes also suggest that having surgery earlier — before or soon after a diabetes diagnosis — has benefits.
People who are significantly overweight and at high risk for diabetes may not develop it after weight loss surgery. And if you have a new diabetes diagnosis, you have a better chance of keeping your blood sugar controlled without medication.
Are You a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?
To lose weight and improve your blood sugar, it’s always best to start with diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes and medication if prescribed by your health care provider. But if you haven’t had success, ask your doctor if surgery is right for you.
You may qualify for weight loss surgery if:
- You have a BMI greater than 40 or are at least 100 pounds overweight.
- You have a BMI greater than 35 and have any obesity-related health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.
- You have been unable to achieve and sustain weight loss after multiple attempts at diet and exercise.
Types of Bariatric Surgery
There are several types of weight loss procedures. Many are minimally invasive surgeries. A surgeon makes tiny cuts in your abdomen and uses small instruments to change how your stomach and intestines work.
Some weight loss procedures don’t require any surgery. Your doctor will help you choose the best procedure based on your needs and medical history. Common weight loss procedures include:
- Gastric sleeve. This surgery removes part of your stomach and creates a new, tube-shaped stomach or “sleeve.” Because it limits the amount of food you can eat, it helps you feel full sooner.
- Gastric bypass. With this procedure, a surgeon creates a small pouch that bypasses the stomach and attaches to the intestine. It restricts the amount of food you can eat and reduces the number of calories you absorb.
- Gastric balloon. In this nonsurgical procedure, a surgeon places a small, deflated balloon down your throat and into your stomach. They fill the balloon with saline until it is about the size of a small melon. A gastric balloon helps you feel full sooner, but it’s easily removable.
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, talk with a doctor to:
- See if you qualify.
- Ensure you’re healthy enough for the surgery.
- Learn which procedure is right for you.
- Weigh the risks and benefits of the surgery for you.
- Review what happens during and after surgery.
You’ll also have lots of work ahead to prepare for the surgery. This will require learning to change your diet and lifestyle. But you won’t be doing it alone: Your health care team will help guide and prepare you.
To learn more about weight loss surgery and to find out if you are a candidate, visit the UPMC Bariatric Surgery website.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
Connect with UPMC
About UPMC Bariatric Services
UPMC Bariatric Services is here to help if you’re struggling with obesity and want to lose weight. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical weight loss plans and can help you find the right path for a weight-loss journey. We will work with you to discuss your needs and develop and individualized treatment plan. We meet the highest level of national accreditation for bariatric surgery centers, and our team provides complete care. We offer our services at UPMC locations throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Visit our website to find a provider near you.