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November 29, 2023

New Information Highlights How Weight Loss Surgery Can Possibly Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

ThedaCare Bariatrics Providers Discuss Potential Impact for Patients

As we head into the new year, many people will add losing weight, or managing their weight, to New Year’s Resolution lists. For many, weight management is an important factor that helps support their overall health and well-being. 

“Carrying extra weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Kevin Wasco, a general surgeon and co-director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics program. “In fact, 90% of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Many people understand that maintaining a healthy weight helps prevent this metabolic disease.”

Numerous studies have explored the relationship between weight and diabetes. New information suggests that weight loss surgery can possibly help improve symptoms of type 2 diabetes or even reverse the condition altogether.

It’s a popular topic among health care providers because the burden of diabetes continues to increase. Effective treatment options can help improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and reduce the strain of diabetes on our health care system. According to an American Diabetes Association Report, diabetes cost Americans $412.9 billion in 2022 alone.

“Weight loss surgery is one of the most promising solutions for addressing type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Wasco explained.

Raising Diabetes Awareness

November is American Diabetes Month. It’s a time to highlight the struggles of people living with diabetes. It also offers an opportunity to educate people about the realities of this largely preventable disease that affects over 38 million Americans.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that prevents your body from maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. People who have type 1 diabetes produce very little insulin or none at all. With type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin or your body stops responding to insulin the way it should.

Type 1 diabetes is often genetic, while type 2 diabetes results from lifestyles factors such as diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.

Without treatment, diabetes can cause many health issues. For example, high blood sugar can damage organs, nerves and tissues throughout the body. It can also lead to kidney problems, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and vision issues.

Weight Loss Surgery for Diabetes

While there is no way to reverse or prevent type 1 diabetes, studies show that lifestyle changes and weight loss can help reduce symptoms and even reverse type 2 diabetes. Some interventions have better outcomes than others, with weight loss surgery leading the charge.

Weight loss surgery includes a variety of surgical interventions that can help people lose weight. People who qualify include those with a BMI of 40 or higher, as well as people with a BMI of 35 or higher with at least one other significant health condition, such as type 2 diabetes.

“It is encouraging to see results in improving and often reversing type 2 diabetes in the patients we serve,” Dr. Wasco said. “The ThedaCare Bariatrics program has seen a 98% improvement or resolution from type 2 diabetes among our patients.”  

ThedaCare offers two types of weight loss surgery:

  • Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass: The most common and successful surgery at ThedaCare, this procedure restricts the size of the stomach by partially bypassing the small intestine. It provides the fastest and most complete loss of excess weight.
  • Gastric Sleeve Resection: Sometimes a better choice for people with significant medical problems, this procedure removes approximately two-thirds of the stomach. It also allows for future procedures if a person regains weight.

On average, people will lose a total of 125 to 150 pounds within one year or later after weight loss surgery. Nearly 75% of patients maintain their significant weight loss after five years.

A Major Decision

Pursuing weight loss surgery is a serious decision, just like any other surgery — especially when diabetes is a factor. The skilled surgeons in the ThedaCare Bariatrics program help people assess these risks to determine whether weight loss surgery is a safe and appropriate option.

“We often hear that these procedures give people a second chance by improving their health and quality of life,” said Dr. Wasco.

In addition to helping resolve type 2 diabetes, the ThedaCare Bariatrics program has seen other impressive outcomes among patients, including:

  • 99% improvement or resolution of acid reflux
  • 95% improvement or resolution of sleep apnea
  • 92% improvement or resolution of high blood pressure

Bariatric surgery is both safe and effective. The ThedaCare Bariatrics team is available to support people every step of the way. The team includes surgeons, nurses, dietitians, exercise physiologists, behavioral health specialists and care managers. They work together to guide people through the process, from surgery preparation to the procedure itself to a lifetime of support afterward.

“Our comprehensive program is what sets us apart,” Dr. Wasco said. “For those who qualify and are ready to make a change, weight loss surgery can be truly transformative.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.