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'We should treat type 2 diabetes the way we treat cancer'

Today is World Diabetes Day and a health group wants the HSE to examine more ways of helping people to reverse their type 2 diabetes through losing weight.

Surgery should be used more in Ireland to deal with type 2 diabetes, a doctor has said.
Surgery should be used more in Ireland to deal with type 2 diabetes, a doctor has said.
Image: Shutterstock/VGstockstudio

DIFFERENT TREATMENT METHODS for type 2 diabetes such as bariatric surgery should be examined more in Ireland, according to the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN). 

Today is World Diabetes Day and IrSPEN has said it wants further consideration from the HSE into different treatment methods for type 2 diabetes. IrSPEN is an organisation of health professionals that focuses on nutritional problems.

Spokesperson for the group and professor at University College Dublin Carel le Roux said advances in medicine and research have resulted in a high chance of sending type 2 diabetes into remission through targeted treatment.

“In the last five years, several studies have shown that we can reverse the disease,” le Roux told TheJournal.ie. “What we want to do now is treat diabetes the way we treat cancer.”

More than 200,000 people have type 2 diabetes in Ireland, the more common of the two types of the disease. The group wants the HSE to further evaluate the treatment options based on the evidence available at the moment through trials and studies. 

Evidence shows that 70% of people with type 2 diabetes go into remission if they lose 15% of their total body weight, the IrSPEN said. 

Le Roux said it “doesn’t matter” how the weight is lost and he believes surgery is the most effective way to quickly send the disease into remission. This weight loss can be achieved through surgery in 90% of people, medication in 30% and diet in 20%, le Roux claimed. 

Bariatric surgery is used to help obese people to lose a significant amount of weight. For three-quarters of obese patients who have type 2 diabetes, this surgery sends the disease into remission.

The surgery restricts the intake of food and disrupts the digestive system to stop some calories and nutrients from being absorbed. 

Fewer than one in 100,000 people in Ireland get bariatric surgery, compared with 70 in every 100,000 in Sweden and France.  

Future change

Le Roux said the group’s strategy to target type 2 diabetes would be through working with the charity Diabetes Ireland along with clinical advisory groups for obesity.

“I think the concern for the HSE is that the problem is so vast, they worry that the cost will be enormous,” he said. “However, we can target a small number of people to put them into remission… it would be a quite targeted approach.”

“We as doctors haven’t done a good enough job to advocate for our patients,” said le Roux.  

The HSE currently advises treatment for type 2 diabetes through having good health, regular exercise and weight loss for those who are overweight or obese. The HSE also offers guidance on monitoring blood glucose levels, different medicine options and insulin treatment. 

There is currently no mention of surgical treatment methods for type 2 diabetes on the website.  

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The department has noted the comments and will engage with the HSE.”

The HSE was unable to respond with comment in time for publication. 

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