Weight loss surgery can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes in obese individuals, according to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine .
In an effort to examine whether surgical weight loss has the same effect on diabetes risk as weight-lowering drugs and lifestyle changes, Lena M.S. Carlsson and colleagues from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden compared the rates of type 2 diabetes in 1,658 patients who underwent surgery and 1,771 obese matched controls who received standard care.
Patients ranged from 37 to 60 years old and none had diabetes when the project began in 1987. Stomach stapling was the most common type of weight loss (bariatric) surgery carried out (69 per cent), followed by gastric banding (19 per cent) and gastric bypass (12 per cent).
After 15 years of follow-up, the researchers reported 392 new cases of type 2 diabetes among the control group (38 per cent) but only 110 cases among bariatric surgery patients (13 per cent). The figures were similar after 10 years, with 28 per cent of control group patients developing diabetes compared to just 7 per cent of those in the surgery group.
“These figures correspond to risk reduction of about 80 per cent with bariatric surgery,” co-author Dr. Lars Sjostrom said.
The researchers also found that weight loss surgery delayed or prevented diabetes regardless of a patient’s body mass index (BMI) at the time of surgery .
In an accompanying editorial, bariatric surgery expert Danny Jacobs, of Duke University, described the long-term findings from the study as both “provocative and exciting”, but added that more research is needed before weight loss surgery can be recommended as an option for preventing type 2 diabetes.

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