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Diabetes drug works better than diet, exercise at weight loss

Diabetes drug

A drug used by patients with diabetes holds potential in helping people lose weight and keep it off, a study suggests.

Metformin is dished out to millions across the world to treat type 2 diabetes, as it helps the body respond to insulin.

But a 15-year study of more than 30,000 people found a daily dose can also lead to steady long-term weight loss.

It was a more successful intervention than a strict diet and exercise plan, which researchers warned people quickly get bored of.

In the future, they suggest metformin could be prescribed to people who have worked hard to lose weight for health purposes.

The study authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine: ‘Helping overweight and obese patients lose weight and keep it off is a major public health problem.

“Although some patients are initially successful in losing weight, many regain some if not most of the weight. Understanding factors that contribute to long-term weight loss (LTWL) may allow for development of interventions that promote LTWL.”

The study, part of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC’s) Diabetes Prevention Program, compared the effects of metformin to a healthy diet and exercise.

Researchers at Louisiana State University recruited 3,234 participants who were obese, overweight or had elevated glucose levels. They were randomly given either a placebo, an intensive lifestyle intervention (ILS), which was a diet and exercise plan, or 850mg metformin twice a day.

After one year, 28.5 per cent of participants in the metformin group, 62.6 per cent in the ILS group, and 13.4 per cent in the placebo group had lost at least five per cent of their weight.

Although people in the ILS group were more likely to lose weight in the first year, the follow up over 15 years showed that this was difficult to maintain.

During years six to 15, when the study was completed, the average weight loss relative to baseline was 6.2 per cent in the metformin group.

This compares to 3.7 per cent in the lifestyle group and 2.8 per cent in the placebo group.

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