Metformin weight loss claims are something that are often talked about by health professionals to be one of the benefits of commencing metformin therapy, but are they true?
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Metformin is possibly one of the most important treatments in Type II Diabetes, so the question of metformin weight loss is of the utmost importance, as if true it could provide a means to lose weight as well as control high sugar levels found in diabetes.
What is Metformin?
Metformin is an oral hypoglycemic medication – meaning it reduces levels of sugar, or more specifically glucose in the blood. It is so effective that the American Diabetes Association says that unless there is a strong reason not to, metformin should be commenced at the onset of Type II Diabetes. Metformin comes in tablet form and the dose is gradually increased until the maximum dose required is achieved.
How Does Metformin Work & Why Would it Cause Weight Loss?
Metformin works by three major mechanisms – each of which could explain the “metformin weight loss” claims. These are:
- Decrease sugar production by the liver – the liver can actually make sugars from other substances, but metformin inhibits an enzyme in the pathway resulting in less sugar being released into the blood.
- Increase in the amount of sugar utilization in the muscles and the liver – Given that the muscles are a major “sink” for excess sugar, by driving sugar into them metformin is able to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood.
- Preventing the breakdown of fats (lipolysis) – this in turn reduces the amount of fatty acids available, so less of them can be used to produce sugar.
What are the Side Effects of Using Metformin for Weight Loss?
It would be great if the proposed metformin weight loss effects resulted in someone losing weight, but only if it is safe to use metformin and not too much of a displeasure to do so.
On the whole, metformin is a fairly safe drug to use unless you have kidney or liver impairment or unstable heart failure. It can also in some cases cause lactic acidosis and for this reason needs to be stopped before any operations or scans using certain contrasts.
The “metformin weight loss” benefits are also not detracted from by side effects, as the most common side effect is loose bowel motions which often settle after the medication has been taken for a period of time. For this reason, if the metformin weight loss claims are true, there is no major reason it could not be used for this purpose in most individuals.
How Well Does Metformin Work?
Although metformin weight loss is the main issue of this article, the real measure of how well metformin works is by how much it improves diabetes control. The way of measuring this is through HbA1C, which amazingly shows an average of the bloods sugar levels over a 3 month period. Metformin incredibly reduces the HbA1C by an average of 1.5%, which in the world of diabetes is a huge improvement. For this reason, if metformin weight loss claims are true, then this truly is a wonder drug for more reasons than one as it can help improve diabetes control thus reducing incidence of complications e.g. heart attacks such as the infamous ‘Widowmaker’.
Can Metformin Actually Help You Lose Weight?
Sadly for those wanting an answer to the Metformin weight loss question, the answer is not that simple. On a positive note, it does seem that in general, metformin does not lead to weight gain. But it is metformin weight loss that we are discussing, right? Well yes, but this point is important because the use of several diabetic treatments such as insulin or sulphonylureas often results in weight gain. So by not causing weight gain, when used to treat diabetes, metformin treatment results in a lower resultant body weight compared to other options.
Some studies however have reported metformin weight loss – in some cases up to 2.9kg. These studies hold hope for the metformin weight loss claim, but the weight loss achieved is by no means substantial, meaning that metformin treatment for weight loss alone is not advised.
The fact is that metformin is an amazing drug for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. It is relatively safe to use and provides substantial results in terms of controlling blood sugars. When it comes to metformin and weight loss however, the results are simply not supportive of its use solely for this reason.