Obese diabetes patients are much more successful in cutting weight and controlling blood sugar levels when treated by abdominal surgery rather than dieting, according a study released Wednesday.
The research in the January 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight, type-two diabetes patients who received gastric bypass surgery lost five times as much weight and were better able to contain the disease compared to patients who tried to lose weight by dieting.
"The degree of weight loss, not the method, appears to be the major driver of glycemic improvement and diabetes remission in obese participants," wrote the researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where the study was conducted.
"It suggests that intensive weight-loss therapy may be a more effective first step in the management of diabetes than simple lifestyle change," the authors wrote.
The two-year study followed 60 obese participants, some of whom practiced conventional dieting and others who received gastric surgery.
The remission rate in the diet group was just 15 percent, compared to 76 percent for the group receiving the abdominal operation.
The surgery group also lost far more weight -- an average 20.7 percent body weight loss after two years -- compared with 1.7 percent among the conventional dieting group.
The authors said that participants generally need a weight loss of about 10 percent to see a remission in their diabetes.
Some 20 million Americans suffer from adult-onset, or type-two diabetes, which is often linked with obesity and high blood pressure.
The disease results from an abnormality in the body's ability to regulate the blood's level of insulin, an essential hormone which tells the body to store or burn sugar.
Many diabetics have health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as circulatory problems which can damage the heart, liver and kidneys, as well adversely affecting a patient's vision, legs, feet and other extremities.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.