Gut Hormones May Play a Larger Role in Diabetes Than Previously Thought

Over 382 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide, and that number is expected to reach 592 million by 2035. Researchers are constantly working to understand the disease better and come up with more effective treatments. For now, the best treatments available include monitoring blood glucose levels, and medications including insulin, which requires many diabetics to purchase insulin syringes or insulin pen needles or pump supplies. Over the past few years, a number of new treatments for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes involving hormones found in the digestive tract have been discovered. One of these treatments affects diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage that often leads to numbness in the feet of diabetics. Gastric bypass surgery, not originally intended as a treatment for diabetes, seems to affect insulin production and blood glucose levels more directly than previously thought.


Gastric Bypass and Gastric Sleeve Surgeries

Obesity is one of the contributing factors for development of Type 2 diabetes, so many people who undergo bariatric surgeries also suffer from this disease. In 2010 the University of Massachusetts Medical Center began a study of outcomes of bariatric surgery including any effects on Type 2 diabetes. The study is ongoing, but some results have already been reported.

According to the initial results, 36 percent of the patients who had gastric bypass surgery did not need medication to control their diabetes two weeks after the surgery. One year after the surgery that number had nearly doubled, with 67 percent medication free.


Similar results were seen in a two-year study done at Cleveland Clinic, leading the head of the study, Dr. Sangeeta Kashyup, to say that “gastric bypass can resurrect a failing pancreas.” This is thought to be in large part because of the effect this surgery has on gastrointestinal hormones. In this study, patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomies had their blood sugar levels tested. Two years after surgery, 41 percent of patients who had the gastric bypass surgery and 10 percent who had a sleeve gastrectomy had returned to normal blood glucose levels. These results indicate gastric bypass surgery as a possible therapeutic option for Type 2 diabetes.


A study done by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, takes a slightly longer view. By studying the medical records of obese patients with Type 2 diabetes who had gastric bypass surgery, researchers found that 92 percent of them experienced a reversal of their diabetes. Of these, however, 21 percent had their diabetes return within three to five years following surgery. Patients who had Type 2 diabetes for five or more years prior to their surgery were nearly four times as likely to have a recurrence of their diabetes when compared with those who had a shorter history of diabetes before their surgery. The degree of a patient’s obesity was not a significant factor.

Ghrelin and Diabetic Neuropathy

Researchers from the University of Miyazaki in Miyazaki, Japan, found that ghrelin helped improve the motor and sensory nerve deficiencies of diabetic mice. Later, they showed that intravenously administered ghrelin improved the nerve function the legs of three men suffering from neuropathy due to Type 2 diabetes. While type 2 diabetes is not normally associated with insulin medicine, many diabetics do end up having to purchase insulin syringes or insulin pen needles to take supplementary insulin in addition to their other medications.



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