Q: Is it true that diabetes medications make people gain weight? I’m trying to lose weight! Are there any diabetes meds that don’t cause weight gain?
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A: Great question. Since most people with type 2 diabetes (and many with type 1) are trying to lose weight in order to improve their glucose control, it seems counterproductive to take medications that contribute to weight gain. But it is important to remember that the weight gain that occurs when using medications such as sulfonylureas and meglitinides is NOT caused by the medications themselves, but by the tighter glucose levels that the medications produce. When glucose levels come down, there is less tendency to lose glucose (and calories) in the urine, so weight gain can occur.
The good news is that there are several diabetes medications that can facilitate weight loss. GLP-1 receptor agonists and amylin are injectable diabetes medications that slow digestion and block hunger, so users tend to eat far less than usual. SGLT2 inhibitors are oral medications that increase the amount of glucose (and calories) lost in the urine. Even metformin, the most commonly used diabetes medication, can help with weight management by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and (in some people) reducing appetite.
If you are trying to lose weight, talk to your prescriber about which medication options may be best for you. Because of potential side effects, not all medications can or should be taken by everybody.
Want to learn more about diabetes medication? Read “Making Your Diabetes Pills Work for You.”