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Gastric bypass surgery touted to treat diabetes

Two medical studies released earlier this week indicate that gastric bypass surgery can be used to reverse the effect of diabetes.

The studies, one of which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the other presented at an American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago, show that the stomach-shrinking surgery greatly reduces the effects of diabetes — even eliminating it in some patients.

According to the state Health Department, more than 850,000 Pennsylvanians have diabetes. The disease is directly or indirectly responsible for about 200 deaths of every 100,000 statewide.

Dr. LeeAnn Peluso, a bariatric surgeon at UPMC St. Margaret hospital in Aspinwall and the medical director at Pittsburgh Bariatrics, said the study reinforces what she and other bariatric specialists have known for years.

"Gastric bypass is by far the best procedure we have to turn around diabetes," she said. "After the surgery, people on insulin take a lower doses; people that use pills to control their diabetes don't have to take them anymore."

Peluso said she recently performed the surgery on a woman who was taking 90 milligrams of insulin a day. Two days later, the woman's insulin dosage was lowered to 10 milligrams.

While the surgery causes patients to lose a drastic amount of weight, Peluso said that's not why the diabetes starts to retreat.

"It's something in the way a person's hormones change," Peluso said. "We have seen this for a long time, but we don't really understand what it is that allows patients to improve."

Peluso said the surgery can help people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by a virus or an autoimmune disorder; Type 2 is mainly because by obesity.

"Type 2 literally is melted away by the procedure," she said. "People with Type 1 see improvements, but not as drastic."

According to Peluso, the earlier someone has the surgery after being diagnosed with diabetes the quicker the positive results.

"The best results are when you haven't had diabetes for a long time," she said. "If you've had it for over a decade, it can take longer for the results to happen.

Additional Information:

Do you qualify?

Experts say having gastric bypass surgery can greatly reduce diabetes in patients, but Dr. LeeAnn Peluso, a bariatric surgeon at UPMC St. Margaret hospital says that patients must meet these requirements:

• Usually a person with a Body Mass Index (BMI • weight in kilograms divided by height in meters) under 35 does not qualify for the surgery.

• A person with a BMI of between 35 and 39 is eligible for the surgery if they have: diabetes or pre-diabetes, sleep apnea or hypertension

• Any person with a BMI over 40 qualifies for gastric bypass surgery

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