Metformin for Weight Loss? Here’s What You Need to KnowBy The DivaGals | October 1, 2023 | Fitness, Lifestyle
There are many ways to achieve weight loss and weight management these days. Most people rely on weight loss hacks such as staying hydrated to speed up their metabolism and reducing consumption of sweetened or calorie-dense drinks. Others sneak bits of exercise and physical activity into their daily routine, like the elusive 10,000 steps a day — or more. Regardless, people have found fun ways to help lose and maintain weight.
For people whose genetics or pre-existing health conditions prevent them from pursuing weight loss efficiently, medical weight loss is a strong alternative that helps bring results and keep them healthy. This is especially important because being overweight or obese often comes with other weight-related health risks.
Metformin is among the many names in the medical weight loss landscape. Originally developed to address and treat type 2 diabetes, researchers recently found beneficial effects of metformin on cardiometabolic health in non-diabetic individuals. Notably, the study found that metformin helped lower the risk of coronary artery disease and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, resulting in lower body mass index (BMI).
Given the latter result, can metformin help with weight loss? Below, we’ll look at metformin and its use for treating type 2 diabetes, why it can help you lose weight, and other essential information to determine if this medication is right for your weight loss journey:
What is Metformin?
Sold under the names Glucophage, Fortamet, Glumetza, and Riomet, metformin is a class of drugs called biguanides that help inhibit glucose production in the liver. It is FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes and is sometimes used off-label for weight loss and weight-related conditions. If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metformin is typically the first medication your doctor will recommend, as it helps with blood sugar control and helps your body use insulin better.
Like other drugs and medication meant for type 2 diabetes, researchers and the general public have noted metformin’s potential weight loss benefits over the years. Because metformin affects functions in your gut, some people have reported reduced appetite and cravings, helping them eat fewer calories, which leads to weight loss.
A similar arc was observed with semaglutide, an anti-diabetic medication that increases insulin secretion and blood sugar disposal. Ozempic, a semaglutide, was FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes in 2017, and Wegovy—a lower dose of semaglutide—gained approval for chronic weight management and obesity treatment in 2021.
So, who can take metformin?
It’s important to note that while there are many hypotheses for how metformin for weight loss works, the exact mechanism isn’t known. Initial studies examining the cardiometabolic effects of metformin showed modest effects on weight but could not show statistically significant differences from placebo. Other studies suggest that metformin has a positive impact on the gut microbiome as well as appetite regulation, allowing for better digestion.
Today, Metformin is considered generic and less powerful than other GLP-1 medications like Ozempic. The medication is taken orally and is typically recommended with dietary changes and exercise for optimized results. Experts also recommend not taking metformin with a high-fat meal, such as meals with large amounts of butter, cream, eggs, or cheese, to minimize the risk of side effects like nausea or loose stools.
Depending on your medical history, goals, and insurance coverage, clinicians and healthcare professionals may prescribe alternatives to metformin off-label due to their proven weight loss results. Metformin alternatives are also often prescribed for type 2 diabetes patients when it stops working due to the insulin-producing pancreas losing beta cells.
In fact, oral diabetes medications tend to be less effective in as many as 10% of type 2 diabetes patients. Metformin alternatives include sulfonylureas to help the pancreas make insulin or SGLT2 inhibitors to help the kidneys shuttle glucose through urine. If you’re considering taking metformin or its alternatives off-label, it’s best to consult your physician first to see which one is best for you.
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