Common Drug Metformin Delays or Prevents Diabetes
Metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, can delay or even prevent the development of the disease and is safe to take over a long period, recently published scientific findings show. The medication encourages weight loss and may even mimic the action of exercise on the body.
Metformin is a generally well-tolerated drug that is probably the most commonly used diabetic medication in the world, with around 50 million prescriptions being filled annually in theUSalone. It acts by suppressing the production of glucose in the liver, thus lowering blood sugar levels. Side effects are usually rare, but can include stomach upsets, nausea, gas, diarrhea, and cramps, and the drug is contraindicated in the case of people with poor kidney function, liver, heart and lung disease. It has been shown to prevent the heart disease that can be a complication of diabetes, and to lower cholesterol and blood triglycerides. Unlike some diabetic medication, it is not associated with weight gain, rather the reverse.
Discovered in the 1920s, metformin has commonly been used by doctors in cases of insulin resistance, one of the very early symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes. Now researchers using information from the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcome Study have shown that metformin can delay or even prevent the development of the disease. It also causes a modest weight loss of 2% of body weight over 10 years, further lowering symptoms and risk.
The DPPOS study originally concluded that metformin could cause weight loss and prevent diabetes, and that as with exercise fatty tissue was affected rather than lean tissue. People who lose weight by restricting their food intake tend to lose lean tissue as well as fat.
Patients who were overweight or obese were divided into groups, with some receiving metformin, others a lifestyle intervention of diet and exercise, and the control group getting a placebo. The study produced a 31% reduction in diabetes development rates over 2.8 years in the metformin group. Metformin not only caused the group to lose weight, but also caused their waist measurement – a diabetic diagnostic factor – to reduce. In follow ups over 10 years weight loss in the group that received metformin was much greater than in the control group, with subjects who took the drug consistently losing an average 6.8lbs. Those who did not take their medication as often as they should did not achieve such a good result, but did lose weight for about five years.
Monitoring of the groups over the study period showed that some patients did experience the side effects associated with metformin, these being mainly stomach upsets, diarrhea, and nausea, more often than the subjects in the control group do. However, instances of subjects reporting these effects declined as the study went on, suggesting that their bodies became accustomed to the drug and did not experience side effects after a time. It was also rare for the subjects taking metformin to experience hypoglycemia or anemia. There were no reports of lactic acidosis, a build up of lactates in the bloodstream, which has been associated with metformin.
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