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Can Metformin Help You Lose Weight? The Truth Behind in 2021

Metformin is primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, but it could also be used to help people lose weight. Great results can be achieved, especially in combination with exercise and a healthy diet. Metformin isn’t a weight-loss drug, but scientists 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. Can Metformin help you lose weight? Really?

If you’re thinking about taking metformin for weight loss, you should definitely ask your doctor for recommendations.

Can Metformin help you lose weight

Metformin is a drug that was developed almost a 100 years ago. Its ability to reduce the levels of glucose in the blood was recognized right from the start, but it’s only in the last 20-30 years that it has seen widespread use. It is primarily used to treat patients with type 2 diabetes, but it could also be used to help people lose weight.

So, how exactly can metformin help you lose weight?

Well, it makes the liver produce less glucose which will then affect and improve the insulin levels and insulin resistance in your body. Since insulin is the key in controlling body weight, the use of metformin is rapidly increasing in popularity.

Unfortunately, the use of metformin doesn’t come without side effects. Diarrhea, lactic acidosis(which may be deadly) and vomiting are some of the most common ones.  

It is sold under many different names and it is available in both liquid form and as tablets, and also in different strengths.

Although it is both effective and popular in treating obesity (and diabetes) it is very important to know that for full effect, you MUST follow a well-balanced diet as well as exercise on a regular basis. There are no quick solutions when it comes to weight loss! Besides, physical activity and healthy food is a sure way to achieve better health overall, not just for losing weight. 

And what is a well-balanced diet?

The short answer is a diet that is low on fat and carbs, and high in proteins and vitamins. For a more detailed answer, consult a professional nutritionist. He or she can help you create a personalized diet for you to follow. 


In May 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that some makers of metformin extended-release remove some of their tablets from the U.S. market. This is because an unacceptable level of a probable carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) was found in some extended-release metformin tablets.

If you currently take this drug, call your healthcare provider. They will advise whether you should continue to take your medication or if you need a new prescription.

You can see the full list of recalled metformin-ER at the FDA website.

According to research, metformin can help some people lose weight. But, it’s not well clear why metformin may cause weight loss. One theory is that it may prompt you to eat less by reducing your appetite. It may also change the way your body uses and stores fat.

Although studies have shown that metformin may help with weight loss, the drug is not a quick-fix solution. According to one of the studies, the weight loss from metformin tends to occur gradually over 1 or 2 years. The amount of weight lost also varies from person to person. In the study, the average amount of weight lost after two or more years was 4 to 7 pounds.

Taking the drug without following other healthy habits may not lead to weight loss. Individuals who follow a healthy diet and exercise while taking metformin tend to lose the most weight. This may be because metformin is thought to boost how many calories you burn during exercise. If you don’t exercise, you likely won’t have this benefit.

Will my doctor prescribe metformin for weight loss?

If you have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and are overweight or obese, your physician may prescribe metformin to help you manage your diabetes or lower your risk of diabetes, and to see if it can help you to lose weight. In fact, your physician may prescribe metformin for weight loss even if you don’t have diabetes or prediabetes.

What if you don’t have type 2 diabetes? Can you still take metformin for weight loss?

This is a discussable question, and the short answer is yes. Metformin has been used off-label, or outside its intended purpose, for managing weight. A study published in 2018 examining the efficacy of metformin for weight loss in overweight and obese people without diabetes concluded that the drug could significantly decrease body mass index in both adolescents and adults.

But because this drug is only available by prescription and hasn’t been approved for weight loss by the Federal Drug Administration, your physician will likely first recommend some of the following strategies for weight loss such as:

  • Avoiding sugary drinks.
  • Drinking water before meals to fill your stomach so that you eat less.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
  • Preparing whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limiting your intake of the processed foods.
  • Eating a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat diet.
  • Practicing portion control in your meals.

What is the average weight loss with metformin?

Results: The mean weight loss in the metformin-treated group was 5.8±7.0 kg. Untreated controls gained 0.8±3.5 kg (0.8±3.7%) on average. Patients with severe insulin resistance lost significantly more weight as compared to insulin-sensitive patients.

Does metformin reduce belly fat?

This study shows that in PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age) women with abdominal obesity, long-term treatment with metformin added to hypocaloric diet-induced, in comparison with placebo, a greater reduction of body weight and abdominal fat, particularly the visceral fat, and a more consistent decrease of serum insulin and testosterone levels. 

Why is metformin prescribed for weight loss?

Metformin, a generic diabetes treatment usually sold under the brand name Glucophage, may help people with diabetes to lose weight by lowering their appetites. Insulin makes people overweight by acting on the brain to cause hunger, making the liver manufacture fat and fill fat cells in the stomach.

What are the possible side effects of Metformin?

Side effects that you should report to your doctor or health care professional as soon as possible:

  • allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • breathing problems
  • feeling faint or lightheaded, falls
  • muscle aches or pains
  • signs and symptoms of low blood sugar such as feeling anxious, confusion, dizziness, increased hunger, unusually weak or tired, sweating, shakiness, cold, irritable, headache, blurred vision, fast heartbeat, loss of consciousness
  • slow or irregular heartbeat
  • unusual stomach pain or discomfort
  • unusually tired or weak

Side effects that usually do not immediately require medical attention (report to your physician or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):

  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • metallic taste in mouth
  • nausea
  • stomach gas, upset

What is the bad news about metformin?

In rare cases, metformin can cause lactic acidosis, a serious side effect. Lactic acidosis is the harmful buildup of lactic acid in the blood. It can lead to low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and even death. Vomiting and dehydration increase the risk of lactic acidosis in people taking metformin.

What should you not eat when taking metformin?

According to the University of Michigan, you should avoid eating high-fiber foods after taking metformin. This is because fiber can bind to drugs and lower their concentration. Metformin levels decrease when taken with large amounts of fiber (greater than 30 milligrams per day).

There are over 80 drugs that are known to interact with grapefruit. Of these drugs, around 40 of them can lead to serious adverse effects. All forms of grapefruit — including freshly squeezed juice, concentrate, and the whole fruit — can lead to medicine interaction.

Scientists guess that grapefruit juice enhances metformin accumulation in the liver. This, in turn, causes an increase in lactic acid production. Because of this, the researchers suggest that drinking grapefruit juice may lead to an increased risk of lactic acidosis in people taking metformin.

How Does Metformin Work?

Australian community pharmacist and IDF World Diabetes Day Hero nominee Pete Lwin from talks about how Metformin works in the body.

No-Equipment Home Workout

Dr.Denise Winters
Editor in Chief Experienced in health journalism with knowledge of wellness and healthy living.

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