Bypass Surgery Looks More and More Like Diabetes Cure

No one knows why, but docs are embracing bypass as a cure
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2009 11:07 AM CDT
A nurse talks about research on weight loss at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – Just why it works is still murky, but the connection between gastric bypass surgery and the reduction—or even elimination—of diabetes is so strong that some doctors are suggesting it as a treatment. “We may have a cure for diabetes,” one tells the Los Angeles Times. While weight loss is known to help diabetes sufferers, some theorize that fiddling with the intestine alters hormones or genes in a way that provide additional benefit—leading to sizable diabetes remission rates of 83%.

“This operation takes about an hour, and two days in the hospital, and these people go off their diabetes medication,” a doctor says. “It's unbelievable.” The correlation is not otherworldly—most diabetes sufferers are overweight, and the magical effect of the surgery diminishes if weight is regained. And while performing weight-loss procedures on 31 million Americans is unrealistic, "if we understood this mechanism and what are the molecules secreted by the intestines that cause diabetes, then we can cure it with a pill," adds another doctor.