File photo: A mobile diabetes bus that was handed to Mercy Clinic in Winterveld by the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Cape Town - About 90 percent of obese patients with diabetes who undergo bariatric surgery are free of the disease three years later, according to a study presented at a metabolic surgery conference in Johannesburg.

Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach and small intestine.

The findings add to growing evidence that the surgery goes beyond helping overweight people shed kilograms, but can also put diabetes into remission.

Diabetes South Africa welcomed the research.

“Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of premature death in the Western Cape and the sixth in South Africa,” said Margot McCumisky of Diabetes South Africa.

The prevalence of obesity in southern Africa was higher than in the US.

“Obesity is an important risk factor for developing diabetes,” she said.

The director of the Centres for Excellence for Metabolic Medicine and Surgery of South Africa, Tess van der Merwe, said a study which tracked 820 bariatic surgery patients was conducted at the Netcare Waterfall hospital.

Three years later, 88.5 percent of the patients who had diabetes at the time of surgery had normal blood sugar levels.

“We finally have information based on our own South African data,” said Van der Merwe.

- Cape Argus