Conventional wisdom and official medical advice have both always said that the only way to put Type II Diabetes into remission is through a lifestyle overhaul and substantial weight loss. But a multi-year study that looked at the effect of weight loss surgery versus that of lifestyle changes on diabetes have found that conventional wisdom may not tell the whole story.

Patients between the ages of 30 and 60 with severe type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to three treatment groups: one group received gastric bypass surgery; a second group had bilopancreatic diversion surgery (BPD), in which part of the stomach is removed; and the third group received conventional treatment of medication and rigorously monitored changes to diet and lifestyle.

None of the patients in the last group went into remission, but patients who went under the knife saw dramatic improvement. For 95 percent of the group who underwent BPD surgery, their diabetes went into full remission. They were able to discontinue all diabetes medications and maintain remission of their diabetes for the two-year study period. Seventy five percent of the group that underwent gastric bypass surgery went into remission.

Researchers explain that while surgery is widely accepted as a cure for obesity, which the surgery did resolve in most case, the reduction of diabetes was not connected to the weight loss itself. They are still uncertain about the science behind these findings but theorize that the changes were due to the physical removal of tissue that produces hormones that are “directly relevant to the regulation of the body’s insulin.” This would explain why lifestyle changes did not put diabetes into remission for any patients.

For sufferers of diabetes this news is huge — could surgery be a cure for the disease even in non-obese patients? Will the function of these removed tissues give clues about how to cure Type I diabetes also? Only time will tell.

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