Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and the majority have type 2 diabetes. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body can’t make enough insulin to meet the demands of your cells. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use glucose, or blood sugar, as fuel. When your cells can’t properly use glucose, it builds up in your blood, causing high blood sugar, which damages many bodily systems.
Dr. Michael Sutker and his staff understand the public health problems associated with type 2 diabetes. One bit of good news is that in many cases, type 2 diabetes is reversible. Weight loss is one important way to help your pancreas manufacture the insulin your cells need and lower your blood sugar.
Several studies have confirmed that significant weight loss can often reverse diabetes. One study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2019 showed that people who lost at least 15 kg (33 lbs) achieved remission and maintained it 24 months later. Remission is defined as having normal blood glucose levels without taking medication.
Remission isn’t a permanent state. If you regain weight, there’s a significant likelihood your blood sugar levels will rise again. Losing weight seems most effective for people in the earliest stages of type 2 diabetes, though researchers aren’t sure exactly why.
High blood sugar levels are associated with numerous risks. One of the most well-known risks is damage to your blood vessels, which in turn, raises the possibility of a heart attack or stroke. It can also cause poor circulation and poor healing, especially of wounds on your feet or lower legs.
Too much blood sugar can also damage the nerves. In your lower limbs, you may experience tingling, numbness, or pain. Damage to nerves in your eyes can lead to blindness.
Reaching remission lowers many of these risks because the high levels of glucose are no longer causing damage to your nerves and blood vessels.
Scientists are still studying the exact mechanism at work in weight loss and type 2 diabetes remission. One theory is that fat cells in your liver and pancreas cause the beta cells, which produce insulin, to become inactive. When the fat goes away, those cells become active again.
Researchers have looked at different methods of weight loss, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you lose weight by following a low-calorie diet or through bariatric surgery. Some study participants followed a mostly liquid diet of fewer than 850 calories per day for several months to lose weight. Participants in other studies underwent bariatric surgery to lose weight and also experienced remission.
Exercise alone is not usually enough to bring about the kind of weight loss required for remission, although it can be an essential element in your overall lifestyle change. Experts recommend cutting 500-750 calories from your daily intake, aiming for 10,000 steps a day, and getting two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
Bariatric surgery limits the amount of food you can eat. Several types of bariatric surgery are available, including sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass surgery. Not everyone is an optimal candidate for bariatric surgery, but it can be an important tool for some patients.
A recent study found that more than half of people with type 2 diabetes experienced long-term remission following bariatric surgery. In fact, studies have shown that even in people with a body mass index of 35 or less, bariatric surgery can bring about remission of type 2 diabetes. Some experts refer to “metabolic surgery” rather than bariatric surgery because it can be used so effectively to treat type 2 diabetes.
If you’d like to learn more about bariatric surgery and whether it may be an option to help you lose weight and get your type 2 diabetes into remission, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sutker, at his McKinney or Dallas, Texas, offices.