The role of bariatric surgery to treat diabetes: current challenges and perspectives

Type Article

Journal Article


C. Koliaki; S. Liatis; C. W. le Roux; A. Kokkinos

Year of publication



BMC Endocr Disord








Bariatric surgery is emerging as a powerful weapon against severe obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Given its role in metabolic regulation, the gastrointestinal tract constitutes a meaningful target to treat T2DM, especially in light of accumulating evidence that surgery with gastrointestinal manipulations may result in T2DM remission (metabolic surgery). The major mechanisms mediating the weight loss-independent effects of bariatric surgery comprise effects on tissue-specific insulin sensitivity, β-cell function and incretin responses, changes in bile acid composition and flow, modifications of gut microbiota, intestinal glucose metabolism and increased brown adipose tissue metabolic activity. Shorter T2DM duration, better preoperative glycemic control and profound weight loss, have been associated with higher rates of T2DM remission and lower risk of relapse. In the short and medium term, a significant amount of weight is lost, T2DM may completely regress, and cardiometabolic risk factors are dramatically improved. In the long term, metabolic surgery may achieve durable weight loss, prevent T2DM and cancer, improve overall glycemic control while leading to significant rates of T2DM remission, and reduce total and cause-specific mortality. The gradient of efficacy for weight loss and T2DM remission comparing the four established surgical procedures is biliopancreatic diversion >Roux-en-Y gastric bypass >sleeve gastrectomy >laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. According to recently released guidelines, bariatric surgery should be recommended in diabetic patients with class III obesity, regardless of their level of glycemic control, and patients with class II obesity with inadequately controlled T2DM despite lifestyle and optimal medical therapy. Surgery should also be considered in patients with class I obesity and inadequately controlled hyperglycemia despite optimal medical treatment.