Lisa Benrubi made herself a deal: although she had lost 30 pounds by participating in a support program to help manage her type 2 diabetes, she had reached a plateau, no matter what lifestyle adjustments she made. “I decided that I would give myself one more year with the program, and that if I hadn’t lost any more weight I would opt for weight-loss surgery.” In September 2009, Ms. Benrubi underwent lap-band surgery, and over the next year, she gradually lost weight.
“As I lost the pounds, I was able to taper off the insulin and then ultimately taper off almost all of the other diabetes medication I was on.”
She says that the difference in her life has been far-reaching. “In addition to the side effects of all medications, diabetes affects every single aspect of your life – from meal planning, social eating, travelling, to your finances. I was self-employed, and my medications were costing me more than $10,000 annually.”
Six years after the surgery and 13 years since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Ms. Benrubi has lost a total of 110 pounds, kept the weight off, is free of the conditions associated with diabetes and says that she now has the blood glucose levels of someone with prediabetes.
Her experience is one that is very familiar to Dr. Chris Cobourn, CEO of SmartShape Weight Loss Centre and the bariatric surgeon who performed Ms. Benrubi’s surgery.
“There is a direct link between obesity and type 2 diabetes,” he says. “Ninety percent of patients with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight. As a person’s body mass index increases, there is an exponential rise in the risk of that person becoming diabetic.”
The good news is that there is a comparable link between losing weight and controlling blood glucose levels. “As people lose weight, their diabetes can go into remission,” says Dr. Cobourn. “It’s not a cure because if you regain the weight, diabetes will return. The key is losing the weight and keeping it off.”
Dr. Cobourn cites a randomized trial in Australia that compared the results of lap-band surgery with the best conventional therapy of diet, exercise, and counselling. “Diabetes remission rates were 73 percent for the group that had the surgery compared to 13 percent for conventional therapy groups,” he says. The study concluded that the amount of weight loss by participants was the main driver for diabetes remission, with those who had surgery losing an average of 21 percent of their body weight and the non-surgical group losing only two percent of their body weight over the two-year period.
Both groups received ongoing counselling to help manage weight loss – and this support plays an essential role in helping people make the lifestyle and behaviour changes needed to keep weight off. Ms. Benrubi says the ongoing support provided by SmartShape has been fundamental to her success.
“SmartShape offered a lot of support, but the key word is ‘offer’,” she says. “It’s up to you to use that support – to make use of the online support groups, to check in with the nutritionist and to work with the team of nurses to make adjustments to the band. Six years after the surgery, I still use all their services: they are supportive, non-judgmental and very passionate about what they do.”
Dr. Cobourn and his team have performed well over 5,000 procedures over the past 11 years at facilities in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Mississauga and Toronto. A network of affiliates across Canada means that no matter where a patient lives, he or she is close to a clinic that can provide support services ranging from LAP-BAND® adjustment to counselling on nutrition, exercise and behaviour modification.
“The operation on its own won’t lead to sustained weight loss and diabetes remission,” says Dr. Cobourn. “But the operation combined with a comprehensive multi-disciplinary program can help people reach these goals and see significant improvement in their physical and emotional health.”
Results may vary.