New clues as to why weight-loss surgery cures diabetes

Many patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery also experience a remission in diabetes, according to researchers at Manchester University.

But other than attributing this result to weight loss, scientists haven't exactly known why surgical weight-loss procedures can cure the blood sugar condition – until now.

UK researchers found that gut hormone cells, previously thought to contain just one hormone, have up to six hormones, including the "hunger" hormone, ghrelin.

Under normal circumstances, these cells "taste" what we eat and respond by releasing hormones that trigger the pancreas to control insulin levels.

Yet these cells can malfunction as a result of overeating or undereating, said study leader Dr. Craig Smith, senior lecturer in molecular cell physiology.

Cell changes could hold diabetes cure

According to Smith, the most common type of gastric bypass surgery also bypasses a proportion of gut hormone cells. As a result, these cells can become altered and reprogrammed.

"For us, understanding how these cells change in response to surgery is likely to hold the key to a cure for diabetes," Smith said.

In people who are obese and also have diabetes, 75 percent of them are cured of diabetes after gastric bypass, he noted.

"Understanding the messages the gut sends out when we eat food and when things go wrong, as is the case in diabetes, is our next challenge and hopefully one that will result in the development of drugs which could be used instead of surgery to cure obesity and prevent diabetes."

A recent report from the UK's National Institute of Health and Care Excellence suggested that obese people suffering from type 2 diabetes should be automatically considered for bariatric surgery. Current rules in the country hold that only patients who are morbidly obese are offered the procedure.

The study is published in the journal Endocrinology.

Source: Manchester University

Image credit: vorakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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