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Nothing Shall Be Impossible

Doc Talk: Dr. Charles Morton discusses rising

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that by 2050, people who have diabetes will comprise a third of the nation’s population. Right now, one and 12 Americans has the disease. 

Several factors impact the sharp rise in diabetes, one of which is the nationwide obesity epidemic leading more people to develop Type 2 diabetes than ever before. 

A new term has been coined and it’s called “diabesity” or Type 2 diabetes that develops as a result of obesity. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetic cases. 

Findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine are giving new hope of decreasing “diabesity” through the use of weight loss surgery. 

Two new clinical trials show that patients who underwent weight loss procedures were allowed to discontinue diabetes medication within days to only a few weeks and the rate of remission for those patients after two years was between 75 and 95 percent, according to the findings. 

In plain terms, weight loss surgery currently provides one of the most effective therapies for diabetes with patients seeing extremely high rates of improvement. Not only that, the surgery can provide similar levels of improvement for patients suffering from other obesity related conditions, including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, arthritis, asthma, acid reflux, infertility and high cholesterol. 

The obesity rate in Tennessee increased more than 90 percent over the last 15 years and in 2011 we ranked as the fourth most obese state in the United States by the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Despite these encouraging clinical trials, the simultaneous epidemics of diabetes and obesity cannot be cured with weight loss surgery alone. Surgery is one small component of the overall success for weight management and diabetes remission. Patients who undergo these treatments must make lifestyle changes paired with good nutritional habits following surgery and a commitment to exercise. 

That being said, weigh loss surgery can be considered as a treatment option before patients reach a point of last resort. Just recently the FDA approved a lower recommended body mass index threshold for Lap-Band surgery. The revised recommendations now allow patients who are 40 to 60 pounds overweight to get the procedure, whereas before patients needed to be 80 to 100 pounds overweight.

These changes, combined with the encouraging results of the recent clinical trials, ultimately mean more and better options for patients. 

If you are eligible for weigh loss surgery and suffer from diabetes, talk with your physician to determine your best course for treatment. 

Dr. Charles Morton is a bariatric surgeon and medical director of the Metabolic Surgery Center at Baptist Hospital. or (615) 284-2400.

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