For nearly a decade, Cristina Iaboni tried to tame her diabetes through daily shots of insulin and other medicine. Her blood sugar stayed 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 her, are overweight or even 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 gastric bypass or stomach stapling surgery. Some researchers think the rerouting of the digestive tract affects the gut hormones involved in blood sugar control.
But does the benefit extend to diabetics who are not quite as hefty? Iaboni's surgeon, Dr. Francesco Rubino, is one of a handful of doctors around the world stretching the rules to see whether the weight loss operation helps.
Iaboni had gastric bypass surgery last fall at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center as part of a study. In gastric bypass or stomach stapling surgery, the stomach is reduced to a thumb-sized pouch that holds less food.
Now 50 pounds lighter, she 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," said the 45-year-old Connecticut mother of two teenagers.
In the United States, one out of five people with obesity-linked Type 2 diabetes is morbidly obese — defined as 100 pounds overweight.
Surgery is generally a last resort after traditional ways to shed the pounds — such as diet and exercise — fail.