Lifestyle management has always been recommended to achieve lasting improvement to health. A new study, however, has shown that bariatric surgery trumps lifestyle changes when it comes to addressing type 2 diabetes.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study found that people with type 2 diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery are likelier to experience significant improvements in their diabetes within three years compared to those who manage the condition using lifestyle changes.

"One of the most important things to take away is that there is durability of remission over time," stated Dr. Anita Courcoulas from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the research lead for the study.

Previous studies have shown that weight loss surgery has the potential to improve the condition of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but they have not been able to establish if the procedure are better on the overall than lifestyle changes when it comes to treating the condition. Not to mention that few studies actually focused on examining how effective weight loss surgery can be for people with diabetes and class 1 or 2 obesity.

Class 1 and 2 obesity are defined as having body mass indexes from 30 to 39. However, weight loss surgeries are only typically advised for people with BMI levels of at least 40. Procedures are only usually recommended for those with lower BMI levels if other health conditions are in the picture.

Courcoulas and colleagues worked with 61 individuals between the ages of 25 and 55. All have type 2 diabetes, with around half categorized as having class 1 obesity. All the subjects were randomly assigned to receive: lifestyle intervention for a year; Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery; or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. After all of these initial treatments, lower-intensity lifestyle intervention offering behavioral counseling a few times each month for two years were provided for all.

After three years, results showed that 40 percent of those who got Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and 29 percent of those who underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding had some level of remission from type 2 diabetes. None of those from the non-surgical group exhibited remission from their diabetes.

Additionally, three participants from the Roux-en-Y group and one from the gastric banding group completely got rid of their diabetes. Again, none from the non-surgical group was able to achieve this.

Researchers also saw that blood sugar control has drastically improved in the surgical groups to the point that that subjects who received Roux-en-Y and gastric banding surgery are likely to not need medication to manage their diabetes.

The researchers are pleased with the results but are keen on doing more work to draw definite conclusions, pooling data from similar studies from across the United States.

Aside from Courcoulas, Steven Belle, John Jakicic, Rebecca Neiberg, Wei Lang, James DeLany, Sheila Pierson, Melissa Kalarchian and Jessie Eagleton also contributed to the study.

Photo: Victor Casale | Flickr

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