Does bariatric surgery treat Type 2 diabetes?

Doctors have found that weight-loss surgery can treat type 2 diabetes by controlling the level of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is a disease that happens when blood sugar (blood glucose) levels are too high. Blood sugar is the primary source of energy for your cells. The glucose is able to get into cells because of the hormone called insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas.

If your body does not make insulin or make enough insulin, the glucose cannot get to your cells and so stays in the blood. This situation, if it lasts a long time, can cause certain health problems. Complications of diabetes can be very serious. They can affect the eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Obesity is an important factor in developing diabetes. People who are severely obese have 10 times the risk of developing the disease. Foods that are high in fats and carbohydrates increases fatty acids in the blood and lipid (fat) build-up in the liver and muscles. This increases insulin resistance and inflammation. Over time, the pancreas stops making enough insulin.

Weight-loss surgery is also called bariatric surgery. There are several types. Most of the procedures can be done in a minimally invasive way, via laparoscopy. Laparoscopic surgeries involve only small incisions and very tiny instruments.

Who is eligible for weight-loss surgery?

  • You are more than 100 lbs. over your ideal body weight.
  • You have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 40.
  • You have a BMI of over 35 and are experiencing severe negative health effects, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, related to being severely overweight.
  • You cannot achieve a healthy body weight for a sustained period of time, even through medically-supervised dieting.

For bariatric surgery to treat diabetes:

  • If you have a BMI of 35 or more with type 2 diabetes and/or other illnesses related to excess weight, and have not been able to achieve normal fasting blood sugar (less than 125 mg/dl or HbA1c less than 7 percent), you probably are a candidate for diabetes surgery.
  • In some cases of inadequately controlled diabetes, patients may be eligible for bariatric surgery even if they have a BMI of less than 35.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy