Type 2 Diabetes Reversed after Weight Loss Surgery in Adolescents

December 29, 2008

NOTE TO EDITOR: Marc Michalsky, MD, surgical director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Childrens Hospital, is part of the consortium mentioned in the news release below Teen-LABS (Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery). The goal of this multi-institution clinical research study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is to understand the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery in adolescents.

(CINCINNATI) Teens who underwent gastric bypass surgery showed dramatic, often immediate, remission of type 2 diabetes, many leaving the hospital without any diabetes-related medications, according to a new Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center study in the January issue of Pediatrics.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a significant health problem that has traditionally been considered an adult disease. But half of all new pediatric diabetes diagnoses are type 2. It is widely believed this phenomenon is related to obesity and an underlying predisposition for the disease.

The Cincinnati Childrens study found that bariatric surgery, specifically Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, helped teens lose, on average, a third of their body weight and induced remission of the diabetes in all but one teen. The study also notes other health improvements, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol level.

Previous studies have shown frequent remission of type 2 diabetes in adults following bariatric surgery, but until now, little information was available for families considering surgical weight loss for adolescents.

The study found that in most cases, patients can come off diabetes medications by the time they leave the hospital following surgery, says Thomas Inge, MD, PhD, Surgical Director of the Cincinnati Childrens Surgical Weight Loss Program for Teens and lead author of the study.

The results have been quite dramatic and to our knowledge, there are no other anti-diabetic therapies that result in more effective and long-term control than that seen with bariatric surgery, says Dr. Inge.

The study reports results in 78 adolescents with type 2 diabetes. Eleven patients underwent gastric bypass surgery at one of five participating medical centers: Cincinnati Childrens, Texas Childrens Hospital, University of Florida, Childrens Hospital of Alabama, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The remaining 67 patients were part of a comparison group at Cincinnati Childrens who received routine medical management for their diabetes, but did not receive surgical treatment of any kind.

Extremely obese teens who underwent bariatric surgery had an average 34 percent reduction in weight one year after surgery, with all but one seeing their type 2 diabetes go into remission. By comparison, obese teens who were medically managed saw their weight remain essentially the same (reduction of 1.6 percent), and all of those patients were still taking medication for their diabetes.

While the exact molecular mechanism by which the dramatic remission of diabetes occurs is not yet fully understood, we know that surgery results in a dramatic change in the production of gut hormones, and a change particularly in the way sugar is handled by the pancreas, says Dr. Inge.

Amanda Munson had type 2 diabetes when she came to the Surgical Weight Loss Program for Teens. Today, 20 months after minimally invasive gastric bypass surgery, Munson is a diabetes-free sophomore in college. While her blood sugar still fluctuates from time to time, she says it is easily controlled with a snack and rest.

It is nice to not have to worry about carrying supplies and keeping my medication cold when I go somewhere, says Munson. It is a lot less hassle than what I had to deal with when I gave myself a minimum of three injections a day.

Prior to surgery, Munson used a pen to administer insulin-like medication every time she ate, as well as any time her blood sugar was elevated between meals.

Although she has had to do some self-policing with certain foods that are not approved for her post-surgery diet, Munson says losing one-third of her weight and remaining diabetes free is well worth it.

Munson was also the first participant in the larger Teen-LABS research study, a project based at Cincinnati Childrens and funded in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health. Teen-LABS will collect and report on the outcome of 200 teens undergoing weight loss surgery nationwide.

In addition to the impressive weight loss and type 2 diabetes results, patients undergoing the gastric bypass surgery also showed significant improvement in blood pressure, insulin, glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Dr. Inge says. This is significant for the health of these teens, as it gives them an optimistic outlook for their future cardiovascular health.

It is important to note that bariatric surgery is not without risks, but Dr. Inge and his colleagues agree that the numerous benefits of such procedures will likely outweigh the risks for qualified surgical candidates.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center CONTACT:
Kate Kossmann Setter

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2018-19 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.