Can Carnie Wilson “Hold On” to Weight Loss and Hold Off Diabetes?

Singer Carnie Wilson  has been fighting a very public weight loss battle for years.

Only 5’3″, Carnie (daughter of Beach Boy Brian Wilson) reached a lifetime weight peak of almost 300 pounds during her days with Wilson Phillips (in which she sang with sister Wendy and childhood friend Chynna Phillips.)

Diet and exercise seemed ineffective for Carnie, and she underwent gastric bypass surgery in 1999. She even broadcasted the procedure live on the internet. Although she was able to lose 150 pounds with the procedure, her weight increased again after the birth of her two daughters.

In 2006, she was a contested on the 4th season of Celebrity Fit Club, and lost 22 pounds (which she later gained back).

Two years ago, Carnie got a wake-up call when she appeared on the Dr. Oz Show: She was now a borderline diabetic, and really needed to do something about her health. She was put on a diet and exercise regimen.

On the Today show this morning, Wilson told co-host Ann Curry that in January of this year, she underwent a second weight loss procedure. This time, lap-band surgery.

This is about health. It’s not about what I look like, what the scale says, it’s about my lifestyle.

So far, Carnie has lost over 30 pounds.

Wilson Phillips is releasing a new album today- entitled Dedicated, to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Some Background Information on Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease where the body is either unable to make, or is resistant to a insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is used to break down and store energy (in the form of glucose or “sugar”) from foods. Without insulin, blood glucose and fat levels become too high and, over time, can damage blood vessels and vital organs.

Type 2 diabetes, which was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, may account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

In this form of the disease, insulin is still made (although possibly at lower levels), but the tissues have become resistant to the effects, leading to a rise in blood sugar.

There is a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes. Of the people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about 80 to 90 percent are also diagnosed as obese.

HbA1c (short for Hemoglobin A1c) is a lab test that shows the average amount of sugar in the blood over the previous 3 months.

It is based on the attachment of glucose to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. In the body, red blood cells are constantly forming and dying, but typically they live for about 3 months. Thus, the A1C test reflects the average of a person’s blood glucose levels over the past 3 months.

A1C levels can help diagnose a person as having diabetes or as being pre-diabetic and can be a measure of how well the disease is being controlled.

The A1C test result is reported as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher a person’s blood glucose levels have been. A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent.

The following are the results when the HbA1c is being used to diagnose diabetes:

Normal: Less than 5.7%
Pre-diabetes: 5.7% to 6.4%
Diabetes: 6.5% or higher

Can weight loss surgery “cure” diabetes?

Recent scientific studies have shown that patients with Type 2 diabetes who undergo weight reduction surgery can significantly improve their diabetes. The results further show that this group did better with surgery than with medical intervention by itself.

One research group, lead by Dr. Philip R. Schauer at the Cleveland Clinic,  measured the amount of A1c in the blood of patients with Type 2 diabetes. In this study, the hemoglobin A1c levels normalized to under 6% by 1 year in about 40% of patients who had undergone gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery,  compared to only 12% for those receiving intensive medical therapy alone.

What’s more, the improved  control of blood sugar was seen even before significant weight loss occurred!

This is very promising information, but The Endocrine Society, a scientific organization dedicated to research on hormones, urges caution:

What these studies do not highlight is the risks of surgery, specifically the short and long term surgical, nutritional and metabolic complications.   Sustained long-term benefits will require maintenance of the metabolic changes achieved. Bariatric surgery is not a guarantee of successful weight loss and maintenance.

Although death is rare following bariatric surgery, some complications may include bleeding, infection, leaks from the site where the intestines are sewn together, diarrhea, and blood clots in the legs that can move to the lungs and heart.

Some side effects may occur later. A small stomach can lead to the poor absorption of important nutrients, and patients must take prescribed vitamins and minerals. Failure to do this can cause permanent damage to the nervous system. These diseases include pellagra (caused by lack of vitamin B3—niacin), beri beri (caused by lack of vitamin B1—thiamine) and kwashiorkor (caused by lack of protein).

Other late problems include strictures (narrowing of the sites where the intestine is joined) and hernias (part of an organ bulging through a weak area of muscle).

In all cases, life after weight loss surgery requires a drastic change in lifestyle, including altering how you eat, what you eat and when you eat because of the changes made to your stomach during your surgery. Ongoing evaluation and support(emotional as well as physical) is essential for success.

Have you undergone weight loss surgery? How has it changed your life? What is the most difficult part for you?

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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