HCA Healthcare expert weighs in: can bariatric surgery help Type 2 diabetes?

Closeup of woman's hands as she tests blood sugar by pricking finger
November is National Diabetes Month, a time when HCA Healthcare teams up with our hospitals across the country to bring attention to diabetes.

As National Diabetes Month comes to a close, HCA Healthcare is asking you to join the conversation, learn about ways to reduce risk and support those living with diabetes.  Read on to hear how weight loss surgery can be a game-changer for those living with Type 2 diabetes…

Type 2 diabetes and obesity: they’re twin epidemics of massive proportions.

39.8% of Americans aged 20 and older are considered obese and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 30.3 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Although there’s no cure for Type 2 diabetes, studies show that it’s possible for patients to reverse it. We’ve long heard that nutrition and physical activity can help. Now, a bariatric expert at HCA Healthcare sheds light on another option: weight loss surgery.

Type 2 diabetes explained: Diabetes is a disease that leads to too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. After eating, food turns into glucose for the body to use as energy. The pancreas then makes insulin – a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into the cells – to help glucose get into the body. In diabetics, this system does not work properly and sugar builds up in the blood. In Type 2 diabetes, people either do not produce enough insulin or are not responsive to insulin. 90-95% of all diagnosed cases are Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, while the most common, is a manageable and oftentimes preventable condition.

Man in suit and tie. Headshot of Dr. Michael Snyder.

Dr. Michael Snyder, medical director of the Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery at affiliate Rose Medical Center

Excess weight gravely affects patient health in many ways, with Type 2 diabetes being one of the most serious. “We know that even though Type 2 diabetes is manageable, it can lead to health problems,” says Dr. Michael Snyder, medical director of the Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery at affiliate Rose Medical Center.

“Type 2 diabetes puts you at risk for damaging complications such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and loss of appendages,” Dr. Snyder explains.

“It’s estimated that one person loses a limb every 30 seconds due to diabetes-related complications,” adds Dr. Snyder. “Weight loss surgery offers people struggling with obesity and diabetes a chance to get rid of the weight and diabetes at the same time. Surgery is a great option for those who have exhausted medical and lifestyle changes and whose diabetes is difficult to control.”

The medical community, from the National Institute of Health to American Diabetes Association to clinical findings in JAMA endorse bariatric surgery as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes. There are many types of weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, including gastric bypass and gastric sleeve.  The duodenal switch is another option for diabetics who have been insulin dependent for 10 years or more.

The sweet success of diabetes remission

After struggling with Type 2 diabetes, HCA Healthcare patient Bob Busch decided to make a change last April by having bariatric surgery. He’s reversed his diabetes and has shed 54 pounds to date.

When asked by KUSA-TV what living with diabetes was like, Bob said, “It was miserable. In the beginning, it was okay, but then you get more and more involved with the disease and you develop different symptoms. For me, sleep apnea came, lots of infections, cellulitis, because your immune system is so weak. It got to the point where I actually had two heart stents put in due to coronary heart disease. All of it was attributed to being diabetic and the weight gain.”

“Within the first two days of having the surgery, I was completely off of insulin,” Bob adds. “Whatever your circumstance is, wherever you are, if you’re finding that your health is really starting to slide, and you really want your life back, you weigh the pros and cons. I wanted my life back: I wanted to scuba dive again, I wanted to ballroom dance again.”

Before and after of man's weight loss after having bariatric surgery

HCA Healthcare patient, Bob Busch struggled with his Type 2 diabetes prior to having bariatric surgery.

Bob’s story serves as a testament that diabetes doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

“One hundred percent of people who have bariatric surgery are improved, and well over 65% have their diabetes go into remission,” says Dr. Snyder. “Within 48 hours post-surgery, most patients’ sugars normalize and they don’t require insulin anymore. Often times, people go from taking three diabetes medications to zero.”

When patients go into remission, it means that the body does not show any signs of diabetes, although the disease is technically still present. You are in remission when your blood glucose has been normal for at least a year. With remission, patients have a lower risk of stroke, heart problems, kidney problems, foot problems and vision problems.

Woman wearing brown top. Headshot of Jessica Crandall Snyder.

Jessica Crandall Snyder, a registered dietician nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, supports bariatric surgery patients at affiliate Rose Medical Center pre- and post-surgery.

“Bariatric surgery is the most effective way to manage diabetes in a patient who is 100 to 150 pounds overweight,” says Jessica Crandall Snyder, a registered dietician nutritionist and certified diabetes educator who supports bariatric surgery patients at affiliate Rose Medical Center in Denver pre- and post-surgery. “And keeping your weight off post-bariatric surgery is the most effective way to prevent the reoccurrence of diabetes.”

Following bariatric surgery, the remission rate for diabetes nationally is around 74% two years post-bypass surgery, according to Dr. Snyder. At the Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery, the rate is even higher: 79.2% remission of Type 2 diabetes at the two year post-surgery mark.

“Perhaps best of all, bariatric surgery adds years on to your life, and the quality of those years are much improved,” reiterates Dr. Snyder. “That’s because most obese diabetics face co-morbidities like neuropathy, retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction and more, which severely decrease the quality of their final years.”

Prediabetes: are you at risk?

Approximately 1 in 3 Americans are prediabetic (have a higher than normal blood sugar level). Prediabetes increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. The good news is there are ways to prevent or delay prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Here’s a to-do list to reduce your risk for diabetes:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: 90% of people with diabetes are overweight or obese. Overweight individuals are 20 to 40% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Losing 7% body weight decreases your risk of diabetes.
  2. Get physically active: walk 30 minutes per day or in 10 minute increments to decrease your chances of diabetes.
  3. Choose healthier meals: eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and stick with lean protein sources like poultry, fish and pork loin.
  4. Limit your processed foods intake: say no to frozen dinners, fast food, chips, sweets, sodas, and sugary cereals.
  5. Stop smoking.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, talk with your doctor about whether surgery is an option for you.

Part of HCA Healthcare’s Continental Division, Rose Medical Center is a well-known Denver, Colorado institution. Since its founding in 1949, Rose Medical Center has earned its reputation as Denver’s “Baby Hospital” while becoming a leader in comprehensive women’s care, orthopedics and total joint replacement, heart and vascular care, weight-loss treatment, cancer care, surgical services, internal medicine and emergency care.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

Recent articles