Are Diabetes Drugs Like Metformin Safe & Effective For Weight Loss?

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Whether you have type 2 diabetes, obesity or just a few extra pounds that you’d like some help shedding, chances are you’re one of the millions of adults worldwide who heard about Novo Nordisk’s remarkable brand name drug Ozempic and how it can help you reduce your body weight. 

People have been paying a lot of attention to these drugs recently, since it was discovered they can lead to a “side effect” of significant weight loss. 

But that doesn’t mean you should be rushing out to get yourself a prescription. Smart people — like you — probably have some questions about these medications, and it’s important to get those questions answered. Specifically, you might wonder whether they are actually effective means of weight management, or whether medications that reduce blood sugar levels are even safe for people without diabetes.

Below, we’ll help fill some of the gaps in your knowledge, including which FDA-approved diabetes drugs can cause weight loss, how effective they are at helping people shed pounds and whether they’re safe for the average person to use. 

But before we wade into the risks and study data, let’s get on the same page about the list of active ingredients that could help reduce the number you see on the scale.

Which Diabetes Drugs Can Cause Weight Loss?

Diabetes drugs generally affect your weight in one of two ways. Some diabetes medications cause your pancreas to produce more insulin, while others lower your body’s production of glucose — and some even do both. 

There are several types of diabetes medications that can promote weight loss, or that have weight loss as a side effect. These diabetes drugs for weight loss include:

  • GLP-1 receptor Agonists . Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (mercifully abbreviated to GLP-1 RAs) are a class of medications that stimulate the GLP-1 receptor in your pancreas. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss. Medications in the receptor agonists group include the generic semaglutide and its brand name versions Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, as well as Mounjaro (tirzepatide) and Saxenda (liraglutide). The current crop of medications gaining notoriety in this category are injectables, and they tend to be pricey.

  • Metformin. Metformin is an oral diabetes medication that helps keep your blood sugar in check by causing your liver to produce less glucose. It was approved by the FDA in 1994 for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

(Related: Metformin for Weight Loss: Does it Work?)

Effectiveness of Diabetes Medications for Weight Loss

As we’ve tried to hammer home so far, these drugs were not initially designed for people without diabetes, so there’s not a lot of data yet on the weight loss benefits for people outside of this category. 

That said, two recent studies have shown that glucagon-like peptide-1 RAs offer a lot of potential:

  • 2021 study of nearly 2,000 adults with a body mass index (BMI, a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight) of 30 or more and without diabetes studied semaglutide vs a placebo and found that, on average, the semaglutide users lost seven times as much weight over the course of a 68-week treatment. 

  • A 2022 study of more than 2,500 adults with a BMI of 30 or more and without diabetes tested the effectiveness of tirzepatide for 72 weeks at different doses. At the end, the drug led to significant weight loss across dosages of 5, 10, and 15 mg delivered weekly, with a higher dose showing more benefits.

  • 2020 meta-analysis of 21 metformin trials found the drug had a clinically significant impact on lowering BMI — particularly in folks considered to have obesity.

  • smaller study on metformin also found that the average amount of weight lost in 154 patients was between 5.6 and 7 kg, or 13 to 15 pounds.

More research is needed to confirm these findings — and to see if long-term use could be dangerous.

Are Diabetes Drugs Safe for Weight Loss?

Generally speaking, we’re in the early stages of looking at using medications for diabetes as weight loss solutions for people without diabetes or obesity. So, if you’re someone in a healthy weight or BMI range looking for superficial improvements, there’s  not much long-term data about the risks involved.

The most common side effects of medications like Ozempic are basically a lot of stomach issues, including:

  • Constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea

More serious issues you can experience with GLP-1 receptor agonists include raising your risk of:

  • Kidney disease 

  • Pancreatitis

  • Thyroid cancer, especially in people with multiple endocrine neoplasia

For people with seriously high BMI numbers, medications can be effective treatments, and the side effects may be worth it. But if you’re just trying to trim down a jean size or two, weekly injections probably aren’t necessary and the risk of side effects may be too high.

The latter group of people might also consider alternatives for weight loss, like lifestyle changes. This includes walking, dietary changes and improvements to things like your stress, sleep and other habits — and as a bonus, all of these changes also have the power to lower blood sugar over time. 

For example, a 2022 meta analysis of nearly 50,000 people found a correlation between the number of steps you take each day and your risk of mortality — any steps you take up to the 8,000 to 10,000 range were associated with a lower risk of death generally. 

More specifically, a 2015 study found that stabilizing your weight requires about 150 minutes of walking per week, and losing weight requires an average of 300 minutes of walking. Changes to your diet and increases in the intensity of that exercise reduced the total time required.

Diabetes Medications as Weight Loss Treatments

Losing weight is often a significant priority for people who have obesity or are otherwise overweight. Carrying around too many extra pounds and having a high BMI can lead to medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, diabetes, heart disease and much more. 

Most healthcare professionals will advise you to do everything in your power to lose weight, but if you prefer to ask them for weight-loss medications, you should be cautious and listen to any warnings they give you. 

(Related: Protein for Weight Loss: How Much Protein Should You Eat?)

Above all, keep the following in mind:

  • American culture has latched onto the weight-related benefits of at least one new diabetes drug, causing shortages for people who need this medication to manage their chronic condition. 

  • While most of these drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only for use in people with diabetes, recent clinical trials yielded convincing data for their weight loss benefits.

  • For the newer medications, many questions are still unanswered, particularly about the long-term risks.

  • Of the diabetes drugs prescribed off-label for weight loss, metformin is one of the most well-researched. Alongside other oral medications like bupropion, naltrexone, and topiramate, metformin is considered an affordable alternative to injectables like Wegovy and Ozempic. Learn about Ozempic vs metformin in our blog.

  • If you have obesity or you’re struggling to lose weight, talk to a healthcare provider about the potential benefits of weight loss drugs. But keep in mind that there are a number of other ways to lose weight safely without medication, like lifestyle changes, dietary changes and exercise.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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25 Weight-Loss “Tricks” You Should Stop Immediately

25 Weight-Loss “Tricks” You Should Stop Immediately

When it comes to diet and nutrition, we all want to find “the answer” that will fix our alleged problems. As a result, we often latch onto crazy diet ideas that, in the moment, sound like the perfect solution. But these too-good-to-be-true “solutions” can hurt more than help us in our attempts to achieve weight loss and gain healthy habits.

Here are some of the most common diet myths exposed.

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The protein-pushing keto craze sure makes it seem like carbs should be avoided at all costs. But do grains deserve their bad reputation?

“People often say that carbs are fattening,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “But complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, are not ‘fattening’ foods.’”

In other words, avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread, rice and processed snacks, but keep those whole grains for a healthy balance.

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While diet sodas may be a better alternative than their full-sugar counterparts, medical studies are starting to show that the artificial sweeteners may actually cause us to eat more calories later in the day. If you want to keep the fizz and ditch the artificial sweetener, try flavored carbonated water instead.

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Like carbs, the type of fats we eat makes a difference. That, in combination with how many calories we eat each day, determines our body weight. Trans fats, typically found in many fried foods, can cause cardiovascular disease. However, saturated fats do not have the same effect and can, in fact, help keep us satisfied longer, leading to fewer calories consumed.

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Maybe you’ve only been eating the egg whites to avoid raising your cholesterol. Well, maybe you don’t have to anymore.

“Unless you are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, eating the eggs AND yolks can actually help you,” says Darin Hulslander, CEO and owner of DNS Performance and Nutrition. “For one, yolks are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Egg yolks also elevate high-density lipoproteins, which are the ‘good’ proteins that can help remove plaque from the arteries.”

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If you count calories, you might think losing weight is as simple as staying under a certain number every day. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. You can eat 200 calories of lean protein or 200 calories of chocolate, but the body processes each differently. Depending on what you eat, your body can store or burn more calories. So, use those calories wisely!

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Reading headlines such as “red meat could lead to cancer” is frightening. And while some studies indicate there is an association with red meat consumption and cancer, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean it causes cancer. Eating red meat in moderation is not dangerous.

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The American Heart Association recommends that people consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (salt) each day. Excessive sodium can lead to high blood pressure. However, this doesn’t mean we have to eat bland food. Use salt in moderation and, if you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor on the best guidelines for your individual needs.

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Sure, peanut butter is a good source of protein and fat. However, you need to be careful about what kind you put in your pantry. Many national brands of peanut butter are filled with extra sugar, fats and preservatives that counteract any health benefits. Check the label and pick up a jar with as few ingredients as possible to get the healthiest version of this favorite snack.

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Calories can’t tell time. The time of day of when you eat only matters if you tend to overindulge at the end of the day and eat too many calories. If you happen to eat a late dinner or snack but stay within your normal calorie range for the day, it should all even out in the long run. However, many people mindlessly eat at night because they are bored or tired, and this is what leads to weight gain.

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This is the one case where all calories are pretty much alike. Multiple studies show that eating the same amount of calories in either a few larger meals or more frequent smaller ones have the same outcome on the body. In other words, this is a case where 1,000 calories in a day are the same, no matter how often you eat during the day.

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With labels like “Lean Cuisine” and “Healthy Choice,” it’s easy to think that pre-packaged frozen meals are not only convenient but also a better choice to help us in our diet goals. This isn’t always the case. Many of these pre-packaged meals contain too much sodium, which can lead to water retention and bloat. Also, many offer too few calories, which can lead to hunger later on in the day. Check the labels carefully and make sure you’re making the best choice.

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When looking to avoid processed carbohydrates, many people reach for wheat or multigrain bread over white. But be careful! Make sure you’re picking up 100% wheat or whole grain bread. Otherwise, you could be just be getting mostly white bread with a little wheat flour mixed in — or even just food coloring to make it look brown!

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This nutrition myth has been around forever, but it’s just not true for most people. Medical studies show that among extremely active people such as marathon runners and skiers, taking at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C every day can possibly cut the risk of getting a cold in half. But for most people, taking daily vitamin C did not seem to actually reduce the risk of getting a cold.

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Wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a negative-calorie food? You know, the kind that burns more calories when we eat it than it has? Sadly, there is no such thing, even when it comes to something as healthy as a piece of celery.

“Regardless of the [calories] in the food, you’re always going to be able to get something out of it,” says Stephen Secor, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alabama.

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Organic is simply how ingredients are grown, usually pesticide-, herbicide- and insecticide-free. An organic label does not mean it’s healthier than non-organic foods. Even things like sugar, granola bars and boxed mashed potatoes can be organic. So, don’t rely on an organic label to tell you if something is automatically better for your diet.

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While cutting out gluten from your diet can help if you have celiac disease, it isn’t really a factor in weight loss.

“Unless you suffer from celiac disease, there’s not much scientific support to back the claim that eating gluten-free is healthier or a smart strategy for weight loss,” says Ashvini Mashru MA, RD, LDN. “Cutting gluten out of your diet most often leads to a reduction in overall calories, simply due to the sheer amount of grain-based foods that we eat on a regular basis.”

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Fewer calories consumed means weight loss, right? Not so fast!

“In fact, studies have proven it to be the opposite: skipping meals promotes weight gain,” says Cheryl Forberg, RD, nutritionist for “The Biggest Loser.” “When we skip a meal, by the time we eat, we’re so hungry we consume too much, too fast and choose the wrong foods.”

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Foods like asparagus and lemons are known as natural diuretics. And while these kinds of foods may not hurt when it comes to holding onto excess water, eating large amounts of them will not help get rid of belly bloat or weight.

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Your daily cup of coffee may give you a good dose of caffeine, which is a stimulant to your body. However, that caffeine jolt does not boost your metabolism enough to be a weight loss cure-all. Also, depending on what you add to your coffee (cream, flavorings, sugar), you could be adding extra calories to your day. So if you love a cup of joe, keep it basic and black, if possible.

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This is a short-term fix with many long-term problems. By severely cutting daily calories for extended periods of time, your entire metabolism can change to actually hold onto weight! Also, your body needs adequate nutrition to stay healthy. If you want to lose weight and keep it off forever, you need a modest calorie restriction plan that you simply continue and never stop.

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You cannot outrun a bad diet. It’s as simple as that. Exercise is great for our cardiovascular health and for building good muscle tone. And yes, it does help regulate our weight. But the amount of exercise you have to do to counteract a few extra slices of pizza isn’t sustainable or reasonable. So work in a healthy diet plan along with your regular workouts for optimal results.

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In a pinch, these convenience items are helpful in maintaining a healthy diet. But things like shakes and nutrition bars are not meant to be long-term replacements for healthy meals. Check the ingredients for artificial sweeteners if you buy these items. Your best bet: Make these at home and use them occasionally.

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Yes, some people should probably cut back on sugar in order to make their diet healthier. But naturally sweet foods such as fruits are sources of important vitamins and minerals. The sweets to avoid are those with added sugars and syrups.

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Good news! While fresh vegetables are always a healthy option, so are most frozen varieties. Over time, fresh vegetables can lose nutrients, while frozen ones can retain them longer. Make sure you pick up frozen vegetables without added sauces, cheese or sodium to keep them as close to fresh as possible.

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Can you imagine life without ice cream, cookies or cake? You don’t have to in order to follow a healthy eating plan. In fact, planning to have some of your favorite treats occasionally can ensure you don’t feel deprived and end up splurging later on.

This article originally appeared on TheDelite and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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