Study suggests bariatric surgery may cure diabetes and high blood pressure.

Obesity affects nearly 36 percent of Americans, raising their risk for related health conditions for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the U.S. For this reason, some obese patients resort to weight loss, or bariatric, surgery. However, a new study has found that they may not only come away lighter, but healthier.

Cleveland Clinic researchers assessed 217 patients with Type 2 diabetes who had weight loss (bariatric) surgery between 2004 and 2007. After at least five years, diabetes and other obesity-related conditions like hypertension had vanished in 80 percent of the patients.

They also found reductions in high cholesterol in addition to drops in weight. All these factors simultaneously comprise metabolic syndrome that raises risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Dr. Stacy Brethauer, the study’s author and an associate director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, added that before the procedure, some of patients had early stages of kidney disease ─ a major risk factor of hypertension and diabetes. After the surgery, almost all of these patients’ kidney disease had stabilized or reversed entirely.

According to the results, 80 percent of patients who had the surgeries met target blood sugar levels of 7 percent HbA1c, a level recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 30 percent experienced complete remission of diabetes that allowed them to stay off medication for at least five years, effectively curing them. Long-term control rates of hypertension were 62 percent.

The Cleveland Clinic study, which was published recently in the Annals of Surgery, is not the first to find that bariatric surgery helps protect against obesity-related chronic diseases, but it is the first long-term one to do so. The study authors concluded officially that “bariatric surgery can induce a significant and sustainable remission and improvement of Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic risk factors in severely obese patients. Surgical intervention within 5 years of diagnosis is associated with a high rate of long-term remission.”

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