Many patients who are obese and are eligible for bariatric weight-loss surgery also suffer from related diseases, including type 2 diabetes. One of the incredible effects of undergoing a surgery like gastric bypass is that even before patients begin to lose weight as a result of the surgery, they see their type 2 diabetes symptoms begin to improve.

Recent studies have found that following weight loss surgery, type 2 diabetes can stay in remission – meaning the patient’s blood sugar remains normal without medication – for up to 15 years. The Cleveland Clinic recently published research that found that in 50% of the cases they studied, diabetes was completely reversed, while significantly improving symptoms in other cases.

Why is that?

According to recent research performed by Dr. Nicholas Stylopoulos, principal investigator at the Division of Endocrinology at Children’s Hospital Boston and Boston Medical School, “What we found is that the secret for the cure of diabetes after gastric bypass lies in the intestine. The key message is that after gastric bypass the intestine becomes the most important tissue for glucose use and this decreases blood sugar levels.”

Every time that we eat, our intestine creates a powerful mix of up to six different hormones that then communicate with the pancreas to control insulin release to our brains. That in turn communicates to our body the feeling of being full, then assists our digestive system in breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.

Dr. Stylopoulos’s research found that following gastric bypass surgery, patients’ small intestines begin to spontaneously create a molecule – GLUT-1 – that is used to help their bodies process glucose. What’s unusual is that this molecule is not normally produced by adult intestines – it has previously only been found in a fetus’s intestines.

So far, researchers are not sure exactly why this is happening, just that it is. It’s been hypothesized that it’s because following surgery, the intestine must work harder to absorb nutrients and to move food along through the digestive system.

The Center for Disease Control has found that 9.4% of the U.S. population, or approximately 30.3 million people, have diabetes – 23.1 million of those are diagnosed, with 7.2 million people who remain undiagnosed.