If you have Type 1 diabetes, you have likely had it for as long as you can remember and may consider it to be a permanent part of your life. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, which can be managed and even reversed with diet and exercise alone, Type 1 develops early in life and was considered permanent, until now. Numerous recent studies are reporting that bariatric and other weight loss surgeries may drastically improve the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, helping patients to manage this disease at a higher level than previously thought possible.
How Type 1 Diabetes Works
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction in the body, during which the body attacks insulin-producing cells. If you have this type of diabetes, your body produces very little (if any) insulin. Insulin helps you to regulate blood sugar, which is why it is necessary for patients to take insulin injections. So how can bariatric surgery help?
Because Type 1 diabetes is caused by autoimmune issues and not unhealthy choices, experts thought weight loss would have no effect on the disease one way or the other. However, Stacy Brethauer, MD, a reputable bariatric surgeon, has demonstrated that surgery can “markedly improve” Type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Bethauer has developed a study demonstrating less patient need for insulin, as well as general improvement in various cardiovascular conditions for those who underwent bariatric surgery. In some cases, patients reduced how much insulin they required by 70 percent. However, Dr. Brethauer is quick to point out that it is weight loss, not bariatric surgery, that plays a key role in helping patients manage and overcome Type 1 diabetes. “We were able to get significant weight loss in [patients who underwent bariatric surgery] that afforded them much better control of their diabetes.” The initial study was small with just ten patients, but Dr. Brethauer considers it a success that demands further research.
The Weight Loss Surgery Link
The catch-22 is that it is very challenging for those with Type 1 diabetes to lose weight traditionally. The disease prevents extreme weight loss through reduced caloric intake or increased exercise. Bariatric surgery, however, gives patients new opportunities to lose weight.
“We certainly have no expectations that [bariatric surgery] is going to put their diabetes in remission, but they do have better control of their diabetes and their day-to-day glucose levels, which is important,” he notes. The complete study is published in the journal Diabetes Care, and has given diabetic patients hope that even partial recovery is possible.
Until more studies are complete, Dr. Brethauer encourages severely overweight and obese patients to research the options for weight loss and examine the pros and cons carefully.
At WeightWise Bariatric Program, we have observed many patients with Type 1 diabetes gain control over their symptoms for the first time in their lives through bariatric surgery. If you are considering weight loss surgery, sign up for a Free Seminar at WeightWise to clarify the process for you. We’re excited to help you succeed!