According to lead researcher Anita Courcoulas of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the key takeaways of the study is that there is “durability of remission over time.” Separate studies had suggested that weight loss surgery sometimes yields improvement in the condition of type 2 diabetes patients, but none of those previous studies had proven that surgery is a better option than lifestyle change, which Courcoulas and her fellow researchers had tried to prove.
Additionally, only a few of these studies had taken a look at how effective weight loss surgery can be for individuals with diabetes and class 1 or 2 obesity, with the latter referring to people with a body mass index of 30 to 39; weight loss surgery is usually recommended to those with a BMI of 40 or more.
In the new study, participants were randomly given one of three treatments, the first being thorough lifestyle intervention for one year followed by lower-intensity changes for two years, the second and third being different types of weight loss surgery. The second group received Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery, while the third group got laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery, or LAGB. Patients from the latter two groups got the same level of low-level lifestyle changes as the non-surgery group got, also for a span of two years.
As it was revealed, 40 percent and 29 percent respectively of patients in the RYGB and LAGB groups had at least partial remission. The rate of patients in the lifestyle change group that had partial remission or more was less than 1 percent. Additionally, three RYGB patients and one LAGB patient had their diabetes completely cured.
Still, more observation needs to be done in the coming years to fully conclude that surgery beats lifestyle intervention in treating type 2 diabetes. “We’ll be able to see what the remissions look like at five and seven years,” said Courcoulas. “I think that’s the next step in this field.”