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Weight loss surgery may cut death risks for obese diabetic patients

Weight loss surgery cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death in obese diabetic patients, study finds

  • Obese diabetic patients who underwent bariatric surgery were 35 percent less likely to have cardiovascular problems after the operations 
  • They also lost an average of about 64 pounds while those who didn’t have the surgery lost about 19 pounds, on average 
  • Patients who had surgery had better blood sugar levels and were able to take lower doses of diabetes and heart medications afterward 

Weight loss surgery may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death in obese diabetic patients, a new study finds. 

Those with type 2 diabetes were 35 percent less likely to experience cardiovascular problems after undergoing the procedure.   

Patients also lost more weight, controlled their diabetes better and reduced the amount of medication they took. 

The team, from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says that although the procedure is costly – which may cost up to $25,000 – their study results show huge potential benefits, so long as patients continue to take advantage of the results.

A new study has found that obese diabetic patients who undergo bariatric surgery are 35 percent less likely to experience cardiovascular problems than those who don’t (file image)

For the study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, the team tracked about 2,300 obese adults with type 2 diabetes who underwent various types of bariatric surgery and around 11,500 adults who did not have surgery.   

Bariatric surgeries are weight loss procedures that either reduce the amount of food the stomach can hold, limit nutrient absorption, or both.

They are typically performed after those with severe weight problems have tried to lose weight through dieting and/or exercise.   

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the procedures can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $25,000. 

Everyone in the study had a body mass index above 30, and most had a BMI above 40.   

They also were taking at least one medication for diabetes or had a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) level of 6.5 percent or more, indicating poor control of their blood sugar levels.

Patients who had surgery lost an average of about 64 pounds while control group patients lost about 19 pounds, on average 

Additionally, eight years after the study began, a first-time major cardiovascular event had occurred in 31 percent of people who had surgery and in 48 percent of those who didn’t. 

It means that the obese diabetic patients were 35 percent less likely to experience cardiovascular problems. 

These events included heart attacks, heart stenting or heart surgery, strokes, an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, heart failure, kidney disease, and death from any cause.

Average HbA1c levels were 1.1 percent lower in the surgery group than in the control group by the end of the study, by which time surgery patients were also taking fewer diabetes and heart medications. 

‘[The study] demonstrated weight-loss surgery can significantly reduce the risk of [actual cardiovascular events] in patients with obesity and diabetes,’ lead author Dr Ali Aminian, a bariatric surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, told Reuters Health. 

Dr Aminian said he believes that for diabetic patients with obesity, bariatric surgery should be recommended as early as possible. 

‘It shouldn’t be seen as a last resort,’ he said.

Still, Dr Aminian and colleagues point out that an observational study such as this one can’t prove cause and effect. 

Other factors, aside from the surgery, might explain the results.

Endocrinologist Dr Jeffrey Mechanick, who was not involved in the research, said the study doesn’t say whether the non-surgical group received the most appropriate and aggressive medical therapy.

‘The study is retrospective, not prospective,’ said Dr Mechanick, medical director of the Marie-Josee and Henry R. Kravis Center for Cardiovascular Health at Mount Sinai Heart and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. 

‘The reason we need a prospective study is because doctors would not normally suggest surgery for low-risk patients.’   

The authors also say the effectiveness of weight-loss surgery for patients with diabetes and obesity needs confirmation in randomized trials.


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