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May 27, 2009 > Can Surgery Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Can Surgery Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Washington Hospital Physician Discusses Surgical Options for the Chronic Disease

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease that occurs when your body doesn't properly use insulin. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle modifications like eating right, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. But what if there was a way to cure diabetes rather than just control it? Physicians and researchers are discovering that may actually be possible.

"Until recently, people with diabetes had treatment options limited to diet, drugs, careful living and lifelong monitoring," said Dr. Kranthi Achanta, a general surgeon at Washington Hospital "Now it looks like there is a surgical cure for type 2 diabetes."

Dr. Achanta will present an upcoming seminar titled, "Surgical Treatment for Diabetes," part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters education series. The seminar is scheduled for Thursday, June 4, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont.

He will discuss some of the latest research on gastric bypass surgery and other surgical procedures and their impact on type 2 diabetes. Growing evidence shows the weight-loss procedure may actually cure type 2 diabetes.

Achanta will also provide an overview of diabetes and the life-altering complications associated with the disease. Insulin plays a role in converting the food you eat into energy your body can use. When your body doesn't properly use insulin, it causes blood sugar to rise, which wreaks havoc on your body.

"Every single system in the body is affected by diabetes," he said. "It is the fifth leading cause of death in this country. Diabetes leads to heart disease, stroke, arteriosclerosis, small vessel damage, kidney failure, blindness, sexual dysfunction and many other problems. It is a devastating disease. That's why finding a cure is so important."

Diabetes and obesity have been linked for many years and obese people with the disease who lose weight experience significant reductions in blood sugar levels. But weight-loss surgery is proving to work beyond simply inducing weight loss, according to Achanta.
Bypassing Diabetes

Gastric bypass surgery makes the stomach smaller and allows food to bypass part of the small intestine. It helps people lose weight because they feel full with much less food. Bypassing part of the intestine also means fewer calories will be absorbed.

"What doctors discovered is the surgery not only caused weight loss, it also resulted in a reversal of diabetes," Achanta said. "Patients found their symptoms were gone and they no longer needed medication."

He will present research that shows the cause of diabetes may be in the intestine. According to Achanta, it is becoming increasingly clear that the gastrointestinal tract plays a key role in the regulation of sugar.

"So it makes sense that bypassing part of the intestine can affect blood sugar levels," he said.

He said some physicians specializing in endocrinology are skeptical of the procedure because it puts patients at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

"I agree, that is a downside, but I think it is better to cure the diabetes and treat the patient for vitamin and mineral deficiencies if needed," he said. "Diabetes is a serious epidemic in this country and it's going to get worse as our population ages and more people become obese."

A major study is already underway reviewing data from the surgeries that have resulted in a reversal of diabetes to better understand how the surgery works, according to Achanta. "We should know even more when the results are released. We need to do more research to completely understand the underlying mechanisms, which will ultimately reveal the true cause of diabetes," he said.

The upcoming Diabetes Matters seminar about surgical options for diabetes will take place on Thursday, June 4 from 7 to 8 p.m. at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. The class is open to everyone. Individuals and families who live with diabetes are encouraged to attend. To find out about other diabetes education classes and programs offered at Washington Hospital, please call (510) 745-6556 or visit

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