Study suggests the use of weight loss surgery in older people could help them manage their type 2 diabetes.

At present, bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, is not a treatment commonly offered to people over 65 years of age, due to the perceived risk of complications surgery can pose to older patients.

Findings presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Brighton, UK, indicate that older patients can recover well and have a reduced risk of obesity-related complications, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes following bariatric surgery.

The study, presented by Dr Nader Lessan and co-author Dr Saradalekshmi Radha, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi, demonstrates the outcomes of 22 patients following weight loss surgery.

The patients, who were all 65 or older at the time of weight loss surgery lost on average 24 per cent of their original body weight in the 2 years following surgery.

Changes to diabetes treatment was also observed in some patients, with 4 of the 11 patients who had been treating their type 2 diabetes with insulin prior to the surgery shown to no longer need insulin as part of their treatment.

The only adverse effects recorded during the two-year period were deficiencies in iron and vitamin D.

Dr Lessan said, “Although based on a small number of patients, our data suggest that successful weight loss and improved diabetes control can be safely achieved with surgery in older patients, which could have real benefits for their longevity and quality of life.”

It is noted that the results were based on retrospective findings from a limited data set of 22 patients. To effectively compare the outcomes of weight loss surgery with lifestyle or medication-based interventions in older patients a larger study should be carried out.

“Management of obesity and diabetes in old age is challenging. There is a lot of scepticism around conducting weight loss surgery in patients over 65. Our study suggests these procedures could be considered in older adults as an effective intervention to aid weight loss and associated complications.”

Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet low in sugar and processed foods, such as that recommended in Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Program have been clinically proven to help patients reduce dependency on diabetes medication, achieve weight loss and even achieve remission from type 2 diabetes without the need for surgery.

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