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Study unveils new weapon in the fight against diabetes

Published on April 4th, 2014

Statistics show that roughly 26 million people here in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some form of diabetes, meaning their bodies are unable to produce sufficient insulin or use the insulin they are producing to process their food efficiently.

As if these statistics weren’t sobering enough, they also reveal that at least two-thirds of diabetics can be classified as either overweight or obese. This one-two punch of diabetes and obesity — called “diabesity” by some — can have very serious health effects, including everything from eye trouble and kidney failure to loss of limbs and heart failure.

While diabetes can be treated through medication, insulin, and exercise, this doesn’t always prove to be the most viable treatment regimen for patients over the long run.

Interestingly enough, a group of researchers recently announced the “remarkable” long-term results of a study launched three years ago to determine whether bariatric surgery could provide the real long-term solution to the problem of diabetes.

As part of the study, the researchers gathered a group of 150 patients who were mildly obese but suffering from severe diabetes. Some of the group members underwent gastric bypass, which is a procedure in which surgeons reduce the stomach size to a small pouch and reconnect it to the small intestine, while other group members underwent a sleeve gastrectomy, which is a procedure in which stomach size is reduced less significantly. The remainder of the group continued to treat their diabetes with medication alone.

After a three-year period, the researchers followed up with 91 percent of the 150 patients and discovered the following:

  • The A1c levels of the medication group were found to average 8.4, while the average A1c levels of the gastric bypass group were found to be 6.7 and the average A1c levels of the gastrectomy group were found to be 7. (A healthy A1c was considered by the researchers to be six or below).
  • The gastric group shed 25 percent of their body weight and the gastrectomy group shed 21 percent of their body weight, while the medication group shed only 4 percent of their body weight.
  • The medication group increased insulin use from 52 percent to 55 percent, while over 90 percent of the surgery group required no more insulin.

The researchers, whose complete study results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, stopped short of calling bariatric surgery a cure for diabetes, as they couldn’t guarantee that the condition wouldn’t redevelop among the surgical patients over the course of time. Nevertheless, they were highly encouraged by their results.

While these results are indeed remarkable, it’s important for diabetics whose debilitating condition prevents them from working or living the life to which they are accustomed to understand that they do have options for securing Social Security disability benefits. An experienced legal professional can guide them through the entire process.

Source: AP: The Big Story, “Surgery gives long-term help for obese diabetics,” Marilynn Marchione, March 31, 2014

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