Metformin Safe & Effective for Weight loss

Metformin is the Safest Medication for Long Term Weight Loss

Metformin is safe and effective for weight loss. It has been used for more than 40 years for the treatment of Polycystic ovary syndrome and type 2 Diabetes. Its supplied as a short or extended release tablet. Many years ago weight loss was observed as a side effect of metformin treatment. The improvement of glucose control and weight loss has  led to the widespread use of Metformin along with a healthy diet as the first line of therapy for most type 2 Diabetics. People with this type of diabetes have increased medical risks and weight gain despite diet and exercise. In studies of non-diabetics, metformin in doses up to 2500 mg per day lost an average of 12 lbs. over 4 months. Non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance lost more weight than those without insulin resistance.

Metformin for Weight Loss Has Little to NO Side Effects and NO Tolerance

Metformin weight loss has not been associated with any  of the usual side effects seen with most currently used weight loss medications (phentermine, orlistat, Qsymia)  such as insomnia, headaches, palpitations, anxiety, fast heart beat etc.  This has led Metformin use for weight loss in non- diabetic and non-polycystic  ovary individuals or those with insulin resistance.  The fact that it costs only $6 a month and has little to no side effects makes ideal for long term use.

Metformin long term usage studies- both for  safety and effectiveness have been very positive. In a study conducted by Wilding et al., the mean decrease in body weight with topiramate 192 mg/day was 9.1% and 61% of these subjects lost at least 5% of their baseline body weight at week 60 of the treatment

In addition, almost all of the few effective weight loss medication available currently are associated with the development of tolerance and loss of effectiveness after 12-18 months. This is not found with Metformin, making it an ideal medication to assist weight control, especially in the long term. The newest FDA approved effective weight loss drug for long term use, Liraglutide, has had limited use because of the need for daily injections and its very  high price making extended release Metformin an ideal choice especially from health care professionals who have limited experience with weight loss medication .

Metformin Actions to Produce Weight Loss in Non-Diabetic Obese and Overweight Individuals

Metformin and especially extended release Metformin has numerous effects on glucose (sugar) metabolism that results in weight loss:

  • Reducing insulin resistance–insulin becomes more effective, preventing conversion of carbs into fat
  • Stimulating glucose disposal in skeletal muscle–reduces sugar in blood, permits sugar to be used for metabolism, preventing fat formation
  • Decreasing hepatic(liver)  glucose output–reduces sugar output into blood
  • Decreasing intestinal glucose absorption--reduces calories by preventing sugar absorption
  • Inhibiting gluconeogenesis--prevents proteins and amino acid conversion into sugar(glucose)
  • Deceasing appetite by effect on appetite centers of brain–reduces calorie consumption

Many of these metabolic changes are the underlying problems in type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome.  Since  obesity in non-diabetics  is also often complicated by insulin resistance, treatment with Metformin would be appropriate for obesity, especially in those with insulin resistance or borderline diabetics.

metformin works to produce weight loss

Effectiveness of Metformin for Weight Loss in Non-Diabetics

The effectiveness of Metformin for weight loss for obese non-diabetic individuals has been reported in several long term studies. Seifarth et al from Germany reported on 200 obese non-diabetics where  16% of the people lost more than 10% and more than 50% lost at least 5% of their initial weight. Greater weight loss was seen with higher BMI and in those with higher degrees of insulin resistance. There was no association with age. The usual dosage of Metformin was on the higher side with most of the patients taking 2230 mg/day. A Turkish study found a 19 lb. average weight loss compared to placebo with Metformin when treating only non-diabetic, obese patients that had insulin resistance. No incidence of lactic acidosis was found.

The effectiveness of Metformin is not restricted to those with insulin resistance but may be more effective in that group of obese individuals.Effectiveness of Metformin For Weight Loss in Non Diabetics

Factors Effecting Weight loss with Metformin

  • BMI-higher BMI greater the weight loss
  • Dose of Metformin: higher doses equal more effect, dose range from 500 mg to 2000 mg a day, oral
  • Insulin Resistance: greater the insulin resistance expect more weight loss
  • Age or Sex: no effect on weight loss

Metformin is a safe, effective, tolerable and extremely cost effective medication for weight reduction. As expected the higher the weight  the greater the benefit. maximum weight loss is observed with higher doses and higher levels of insulin resistance.  An added benefit is the proven ability of Metformin in preventing the development of diabetes in obese pre-diabetic individuals or even in obese individuals with very strong family history (mother or father with diabetes, sibling with diabetes.)

Metformin: More About the Medication

Metformin was discovered in 1922 by a French doctor and began  being prescribed for diabetes control in France in 1957. The FDA approved its use for diabetes in 1995. Metformin is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, which lists the most effective and safe medicines. After about 6 years of use, the weight loss benefits of Metformin became known. This lead to even more use because most diabetic medication, including insulin causes weight gain making diabetic control even more difficult. The added benefit of decreasing insulin resistance in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome added to the widespread use of metformin around the world. Today, Metformin is the most widely used medication in the world for diabetes taken by mouth. By  2016, it became the  4th most prescribed medication  in the US with more than 81 million prescriptions.

Metformin tablets for safe weight loss in weight gain in obese non diabetics and diabetics

Adverse Effects and Dosing of Metformin for Weight Loss

Metformin has a few adverse effects that are minor and self- limited. This includes gastrointestinal irritation, including diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. These disappear with continued use. By taking the extended version of the drug and slowly increasing the dose the side effects are minimized. In a typical situation it might take 6 to 8 weeks or more  in some sensitive individuals starting at the 250 mg dose to reach the effective doses for weight loss between 1500 to 2000 mg. The possible occurrence of gastrointestinal side effects and thus the rate of increasing dose needs to be individualized for each user.

The most significant potential side effect of Metformin use is lactic acidosis; this complication is very rare, and the vast majority of these cases seem to be related to other serious medical problems such as impaired liver or kidney function, rather than to the Metformin itself. It almost never occurs in routine medical treatment.

Metform has few side effects which are self limited

Metformin and Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance occurs when insulin is unable to facilitate the transport of  glucose (sugar) into the  liver, fat and muscles cells. The result is the glucose in the blood starts to rise higher and higher. In response, the pancreas makes more and more insulin in an attempt to lower the elevated sugar. This is the definition of diabetes–high blood sugar and high insulin.  Insulin resistance syndrome includes a group of problems like obesityhigh blood pressurehigh cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. These often cluster together. The underlying problem is the ineffective insulin action throughout the body.  It  affects as many as 1 in 3 Americans. You might also hear it called metabolic syndrome. Since Metformin is most effective in overweight or obese individual with insulin resistance, one needs a simple chemical test to make that diagnosis. The simplest method is to measure the blood sugar and insulin at the same time.
A blood sugar borderline  high or high (normal blood sugar is 65 to 95) and a blood insulin level of > 10 iu (normal is 3-8 units) together are needed for the diagnosis of insulin resistance. This is important since the best results with Metformin are found in obese individuals that have some degree of insulin resistance.