Study Reveals How Weight Loss Surgery Impacts Insulin Production

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Posted: August 12th, 2019

Weight loss surgery has long been used to treat Type II diabetes. Now, a new study provides further insight into how the procedure helps regulate insulin levels.

Weight loss surgery is a widely used and effective treatment for a variety of weight-related health problems, including Type II diabetes. In fact, the procedure has been proven to reduce the incidence of Type II diabetes beyond what can be attributed to weight loss alone.

What additional factors are at play for Type II diabetes patients who have undergone bariatric surgery? Most significantly, studies have revealed that weight loss procedures can lower patients’ blood sugar. This is partially attributable to reduced body weight, but is also correlated with hormones like glucagon peptide 1 (GLP-1) that often increase after surgery.

A recent study published in Cell Reports provides insight into the role of the GLP-1 hormone in diabetes treatment. In this report, researchers demonstrate how bariatric surgery alters the body’s digestion patterns. These changes cause patients to produce higher levels of key hormones that, in turn, result in increased insulin production.

Insulin can help the body effectively process glucose and manage the symptoms of Type II diabetes, meaning this research is an important step in understanding how patients can treat (or even reverse) this potentially life-threatening condition by using weight loss surgery to complement other measures.

The Connection between Hormones, Weight Loss Surgery, and Diabetes

The Cell Reports study examined non-obese patients who had undergone bariatric surgery in order to treat a type of genetic gastric cancer. The researchers found that Exendin-9 — a compound that binds to and blocks the action of GLP-1 — lowered the levels of insulin in these patients, preventing hypoglycemic episodes.

“We found that blocking the GLP-1 hormone with the Exendin-9 blocked its effect on the pancreatic beta cells that produce the insulin,” says senior author Fiona Gribble of the Cambridge University Metabolic Research Laboratories at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science.

The study found a clear link between GLP-1 and insulin production, but the researchers were also interested in understanding what causes hormone levels to rise after bariatric surgery. Their results showed that anatomical changes precipitated by the procedure likely explained the change. Weight loss surgery alters the layout of the digestive system, impacting how nutrients are absorbed by the body. Before bariatric surgery, nutrients are digested relatively high in the gut, but the procedure forces the digestive process further down in the intestines. As this region is also responsible for producing GLP-1, postoperative digestion ends up stimulating the hormone’s secretion.

These findings are significant because they offer new insights into how bariatric surgery can effectively manage Type II diabetes. The study also opens the door to an improved understanding of the GLP-1 hormone, potentially prompting new ways to treat Type II diabetes without surgical intervention.

Additional Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

While bariatric surgery has proven to be the most effective way to reverse Type II diabetes for obese patients, the procedure also provides many additional benefits. It can impact both physical and mental health, improving conditions like joint pain and sleep apnea as well as boosting patients’ self-confidence.

However, patients interested in weight loss surgery must undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if the procedure is right for them. Those who have already attempted to control Type II diabetes and other health problems through diet and exercise may find that bariatric surgery offers a long-term solution. That said, these patients must also be committed to making lifestyle changes in order to maintain their success.

If you’d like to learn more about how weight loss surgery can reverse Type II diabetes and other weight-related health conditions, schedule an appointment with Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors today. Not ready to commit? You can start by signing up for a free 10-minute phone consultation with a bariatric coordinator.