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Gastric bypass surgery causes sugar-burning gut growth in rats

Intestinal changes could explain rapid improvements in diabetes

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1:54pm, July 25, 2013

SUGAR HIGH  After gastric bypass surgery, the intestines of an obese rat (Roux limb indicated by arrow, right) burn more sugar (bright red and yellow) than before the surgery (left). This boost in sugar use could explain why surgery can rapidly improve diabetes. 

A beefed-up chunk of intestines might do the heavy lifting of gastric bypass surgery.

The surgery’s rapid diabetes-improving effects appear to stem from growth of new intestinal tissue. After having an operation to remodel the gut, obese rats build the new tissue by drawing sugar from the blood, researchers report in the July 26 Science. This energy drain could explain how the most popular type of gastric bypass lowers diabetic patients’ sugar levels surprisingly swiftly, says coauthor Nicholas Stylopoulos, an obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School.

It’s the first time researchers have linked the effects of gastric bypass surgery to the gut’s sugar use, says Blandine Laferrère, a clinical diabetes researcher at Columbia University. “It’s a fascinating new piece of the puzzle,” she says.

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