Metformin, sold under the brand name Glucophage among others, is the first-line medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, particularly in people who are overweight. It is also used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. It is not associated with weight gain and is taken by mouth.
Metformin was rediscovered in the search for antimalarial agents in the 1940s and, during clinical tests, proved useful to treat influenza when it sometimes lowered blood glucose. This property was pursued by the French physician Jean Sterne, who first reported the use of metformin to treat diabetes in 1957.
How it works
Metformin is an oral medication that lowers blood glucose (sugar) by influencing the body’s sensitivity to insulin and is used for treating type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that controls glucose levels in the blood by reducing the amount of glucose made by the liver and by increasing the removal of glucose from the blood by muscle and fat tissues. As a result, insulin causes blood glucose levels to fall. Diabetes is caused by a decrease in the production of insulin that causes increased production of glucose by the liver, and reduced uptake (and effects) of insulin on fat and muscle tissues. Metformin acts by increasing the sensitivity of the liver, muscle, fat, and other tissues to the uptake and effects of insulin. These actions lower the level of sugar in the blood.
Can I Use Glucophage For Weight loss?
Glucophage isn’t a weight-loss drug, but researchers have found a link between the drug and weight loss. A long-term study published in the journal Diabetes Care that was conducted by the Diabetes Prevention Program concluded that the drug could serve as a treatment for excess body weight, although more studies are needed. The FDA has not approved Glucophage for weight loss purposes. However, some doctors will prescribe it to people who are overweight or obese and have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
That said, if Glucophage is prescribed to someone who meets these conditions, that person needs to adopt other healthful habits to support weight loss. These habits include following a nutrient-rich, low-calorie diet and getting regular exercise. Glucophage is not a quick-fix, miracle-diet drug. It is much more likely that people taking metformin will likely lose weight gradually over a long time. It is also worth noting that people who lose weight while taking Glucophage may regain it if they stop taking the drug.
What are the side effects of metformin?
The most common side effects of metformin are:
- diarrhea and
- loss of appetite.
These symptoms occur in one out of every three patients. These side effects may be severe enough to cause therapy to be discontinued in one out of every 20 patients. These side effects are related to the dose of the medication and may decrease if the dose is reduced.
Metformin may also cause:
- weakness or lack of energy
- respiratory tract infections,
- low levels of vitamin B-12,
- low blood glucose (hyperglycemia)
- indigestion, muscle pain,
A serious but rare side effect of metformin is lactic acidosis. Lactic acidosis occurs in one out of every 30,000 patients and is fatal in 50% of cases. The symptoms of lactic acidosis are:
- trouble breathing,
- abnormal heartbeats,
- unusual muscle pain,
- stomach discomfort,
- light-headedness, and
- feeling cold.
Patients at risk for lactic acidosis include those with reduced function of the
- kidneys or liver,
- congestive heart failure,
- severe acute illnesses.