Will Metformin Work For Weight Loss? It is a question that science has asked on several occasions after verifying that diabetic patients under a regimen with this drug also lose kilograms after months of use.
The diabetes management protocols propose to indicate metformin to people with altered blood glucose levels who, in addition, have a body mass index greater than 25, that is, who are obese. But what if we want to use it only as weight loss therapy?
What is metformin?
Metformin is a medicine used for type 2 diabetes. It was specially formulated to reduce the sugar that the intestine absorbs from food, thereby helping to keep blood sugar levels in check.
Type 2 diabetes is the form of the disease in which insulin is still circulating , so the patient does not need to inject it, as in type 1 . There is a large battery of oral antidiabetic drugs that are prescribed to these people, although metformin is the current therapeutic star.
The basic functions in the body are the following:
- Reduces the entry of glucose through the intestinal mucosa when eating.
- It stimulates the liver to make glycogen to store sugar and not dump it into the bloodstream.
- Accelerates the entry of glucose into muscle tissue by improving the insulin sensitivity of muscle receptors .
The general use guideline is with meals. Doses of 500, 800, 850 or 1000 milligrams are usually indicated with lunch and dinner. Some commercial presentations are combined with another oral antidiabetic.
Keep reading: Diet in type 2 diabetes: how should it be?
Is metformin useful for weight loss?
We know that the drug is an antidiabetic, but science has also determined that it causes weight loss. So can it be used in this regard? Is it valid to prescribe it for a person without diabetes who wants to lose weight?
The question is complex. The use of metformin to lose weight is an off-label or off-label use , this means that the professional indicates it for a utility that is not approved by the government associations that regulate drugs.
Prescription is not illegal, although it cannot be said to have sufficient evidence . What is known so far is that the effect is long-term, in the context of an LTWL, short for long-term weight loss . These are the treatments that have proven effective for weight loss after months or years of use.
The available studies on metformin indicate that the greatest benefit on body mass indices recorded after a year of continuous use . However, consistency is reached about 10 years after starting it.
The side effects that contribute to weight loss
Metformin, like any drug, is not without adverse effects. During its consumption it is common for gastrointestinal signs to occur which, although not of intolerance, are associated with its effect on the intestine.
These reactions have been speculated to contribute to weight loss. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea , abdominal swelling and flatulence are some of the problems that occur. Some diabetic patients reduce their food intake because of this digestive discomfort.
On the other hand, the drug is an appetite reducer . The mechanism by which this decrease in cravings for food is produced is not clear. It could be a hormonal change linked to the effect on the distribution of body fat. In any case, in some series of case studies an increase in hunger was registered at the beginning of the treatments, in the opposite direction to that expected.
Find out more: Hyporexia or lack of appetite
Alternatives to Metformin for Weight Loss
Metformin may not be the first choice for weight loss . Its use in weight loss is not endorsed as an initial indication nor can it be used as the only way to approach a diet plan .
On the contrary, the recommendation is to exhaust the traditional and proven ways of weight loss first. Both low-calorie diets and physical exercise are the logical ways to deal with overweight and obesity.
Like any drug, even the diuretics that popularized its use in nutritional terms, the adverse effects must not be forgotten. One of the most complicated of metformin is lactic acidosis , which can be life-threatening . Therefore, strict medical control is required and never proceed to self-medication.
If it is a diabetic patient with extra kilograms, then the drug will be of choice, since a possible loss of weight will contribute to the improvement of glycemic values. Even so, the need for a specific diet and appropriate physical exercise also applies.
There is insufficient scientific evidence to support the sole use of metformin for weight loss . It would be unwise for the drug to be prescribed without exhausting the previous instances, especially since there is relevant information to develop dietary and sports plans that help in weight loss.