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Researchers from Stanford University in California have discovered that the diabetes drug metformin may increase the body’s production of a molecule known for its “anti-hunger” effects that suppress appetite. This molecule is also produced after vigorous exercise, suggesting that metformin may lead to weight loss benefits through pathways related to exercise. The study found that metformin can increase levels of this molecule, called lac-phe, in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

The study involved trials in mice with obesity and analyzed blood plasma samples from individuals with type 2 diabetes before and after 12 weeks of taking metformin. The participants started at a daily dose of 500 mg, gradually increasing to 2,000 mg. Researchers observed significant increases in lac-phe levels during this period. Additionally, a larger study with 79 participants showed higher lac-phe levels in those taking metformin compared to those not taking the medication. Blocking lac-phe production in mice reversed appetite suppression and caused weight regain.

Metformin, which is commonly prescribed to control blood sugar levels, has been found to cause modest weight loss within the first few months of starting the medication. While it has not been approved by the FDA for weight loss management, experts emphasize that metformin offers various benefits beyond weight loss, such as supporting blood glucose levels and metabolic function. The drug reduces glucose production in the liver, delays food absorption, increases satiety, and improves insulin sensitivity, all contributing to modest weight loss when combined with lifestyle changes.

Diabetes educators highlight the importance of combining metformin with exercise and dietary modifications for optimal weight loss and diabetes management. Metformin can support weight loss by reducing calorie intake and insulin needs, but it is not a standalone weight loss solution. Providers recommend a holistic approach that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and medication adherence. Individuals may experience digestive side effects when first starting metformin, but these often subside over time, especially with extended-release formulations that minimize discomfort.

Experts encourage individuals living with diabetes to advocate for themselves and discuss their medication options with healthcare providers. While metformin is a widely prescribed and effective diabetes medication, it is important to address any concerns or side effects with healthcare professionals. Making sustainable lifestyle changes, such as consuming whole foods and engaging in regular physical activity, can enhance the benefits of metformin and support overall metabolic health. Understanding the role of medications like metformin in weight loss and diabetes management can empower individuals to take control of their health and well-being.

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