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Diabetics trying gastric bypass to lower blood sugar

LOS ANGELES - For nearly a decade, Cristina Iaboni tried to tame her diabetes the usual way, through daily shots of insulin and other medicine.

Still, her blood sugar raged out of control. So Iaboni combed the Internet for another solution and found a doctor who is testing weight loss surgery on diabetics who, like herself, are merely overweight or a tad obese in an attempt to curb the chronic disease.

Scientists in recent years have discovered that diabetes all but disappears in some obese patients soon after the operation. Many were able to achieve normal blood sugar and ditch their medications.

But does the benefit extend to diabetics who are not quite as hefty? Performing surgery on the not-as-obese with the goal of reversing diabetes is provocative. Iaboni's surgeon is one of a handful of doctors stretching the rules to see whether the weight loss operation helps.

Iaboni had gastric bypass surgery last fall at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Now 50 pounds lighter, Iaboni has stopped taking diabetes medications. Her blood sugar is almost normal.

"I didn't care if I lost any weight. I just wanted the diabetes to go away," she said.

The twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes are fueling an international public health threat. In the United States, one out of five people with obesity-linked Type 2 diabetes are morbidly obese, defined as 100 pounds overweight.

Surgery is generally a last resort after traditional ways to shed the pounds fail. Even so, there are strict rules for who can go under the knife.

Federal guidelines say surgery candidates must be morbidly obese with a body mass index over 40, or a BMI over 35 plus a weight-related medical problem like diabetes or high blood pressure.


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