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Can I Take Metformin For Weight Loss?

19th January 2021

The concept of ‘weight loss in a pill’ is a dream had by many. Weight loss tablets and supplements have been tried and tested for years but too often have they come with dangerous side effects such as increased blood pressure, drug dependence and an increased heart rate.

When Metformin, an oral medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes was found to evoke weight loss, some doctors began prescribing it to patients struggling with their weight, whether they had diabetes or not. But is this safe? And is Metformin even effective?

metformin for weightloss

What is Metformin?

Metformin is an oral medicine which assists people in controlling their blood sugar. It helps the body in restoring its response to insulin, which is the hormone that turns glucose into energy. People living with Type 2 Diabetes, the insulin made by their pancreas is unable to get sugar into the cells of the body where it can work properly. Metformin lowers the blood sugar when it becomes too high and helps to restore the food consumption to make energy for the body.

Has it been tested as weight loss treatment?

Metformin is currently not approved as a weight-loss drug, however, is it often the first treatment used on those once they are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Last year in a 15 year-long study, a group of people who were at risk of Type 2 diabetes but who were not yet formally diagnosed, were given either metformin or a placebo medicine in an effort to look at long-term weight loss.

The group of 3,234 people were divided into 3 sub-groups; assigned to a strict exercise and diet plan, assigned to take Metformin, and assigned to take the placebo drug. All participants had also been advised to follow a strict diet and exercise plan due to their risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Initially, researchers found that those who had been put on a diet and exercise plan lost more weight than those taking Metformin. However, in the 15 years of follow-ups, researchers found that those who had been taking the medicine were more likely to maintain their weight loss while quite a few who were doing it all on their own through diet and exercise had regained the weight they originally lost. 

This was the first study to show the effects of any medicine on long term weight loss, but it is very important to note that those included in the results were only the people who lost 5% of their body weight in the first year. So 70% of the original participants were not counted in the final results, bringing the final group of participants down to 1,066.

weightloss medication

Should I use Metformin as a weight-loss treatment?

Despite many people claiming that the medicine has helped them with weight loss, Metformin isn’t a licensed weight loss treatment.

There are some side effects that come with regular use, for example, you cannot drink alcohol while taking Metformin and you should be wary of taking it if you have conditions such as anaemia or a vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, common side effects of taking Metformin are loose stools, nausea and abdominal pain.

We strongly advise that you only take Metformin while under the care of a doctor and from their professional recommendation.