People with obesity can combat type 2 diabetes-related complications by undergoing weight loss surgery, new findings demonstrate.

A study by the University of Michigan has found that bariatric surgery is linked to a reduced risk of damaged nerves, high glucose levels and high lipid levels.

During the trial, the team of academics analysed the health outcomes of around 120 adults who had weight loss surgery two years ago.

They discovered a link between bariatric surgery and improvements in the nerve damage condition peripheral neuropathy.

Lead author Dr Brian C. Callaghan said: “Our findings suggest that bariatric surgery likely enables the regeneration of the peripheral nerves and, therefore, may be an effective treatment for millions of individuals with obesity who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and peripheral neuropathy.”

The scientists conducted skin biopsies to look at the participant’s nerve fibre density in their legs and thighs.

They detected an improvement in nerve fibre density in the thighs after bariatric surgery; however, no changes were identified in the legs following a weight loss procedure.

According to the study, weight loss surgery also prevents the development of metabolic complications.

Joint author Dr Evan Reynolds said: “Given the natural history of peripheral neuropathy decline in people with obesity, even stability in nerve fibre density may be considered a successful result.

“Therefore, our findings of stability of nerve fibre density in the leg and improvement in nerve fibre density at the thigh indicate that bariatric surgery may be a successful therapy to improve or reverse peripheral neuropathy for people with long-term metabolic impairment.”

Peripheral neuropathy can be treated with topical analgesics and gabapentin and sodium channel blockers, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy and exercise.

The study was published in the journal Diabetologia.

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