Background: Gastric bypass has repeatedly been shown to improve and even cure type 2 diabetes by substantially improving insulin resistance. The mechanism by which it achieves this is not currently known, but some have hypothesized that there may be important humoral effects brought about by the bypass of the stomach, duodenum or proximal jejunum. A better understanding of the time course of the changes in insulin resistance after surgery might assist our understanding of potential mechanisms.
Methods: Intravenous glucose tolerance tests (IVGTT) were performed in 26 severely obese patients on the morning of gastric bypass surgery and again 6 days later. In addition insulin resistance was assessed in 71 patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) method before surgery, and again at 6 days, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Patients were divided into 3 groups for analysis: diabetics, impaired glucose tolerance and normal glucose tolerance.
Results: All 3 groups of patients were noted to have insulin resistance prior to surgery. This was greatest in the diabetic patients, as indicated by HOMA. There was marked loss of/improvement in insulin resistance within 6 days of gastric bypass by both IVGTT and HOMA methods in all groups, which was maintained over the 12-month period. The study included 31 diabetic patients, of whom only 3 required medication following hospital discharge.
Conclusion: The changes in insulin resistance seen after gastric bypass, which are responsible for the resolution or improvement of type 2 diabetes occur within 6 days of the surgery, before any appreciable weight loss has occurred. This finding has implications for our understanding of the mechanism of insulin resistance in severely obese patients and is consistent with a humoral mechanism emanating from the GI tract.