Do Any Diabetes Medicines Cause Weight Gain?

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Could Your Diabetes Medicine Be to Blame for Your Weight Loss Struggle?

written by: Tara Kimball • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 6/3/2011

When you need to manage your diabetes, you may wonder how the treatment program will impact your weight. Here's a look at diabetes treatments that cause weight gain and how to manage it.

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    A common struggle for diabetics surrounds weight management. Particularly with type 2 diabetes, weight loss can cause a significant reduction in insulin resistance, reducing your medication needs. If your doctor has recommended you lose weight and despite your best efforts, those pounds are still hanging on, your diabetes medication may be to blame. Do any diabetes medicines cause weight gain? Yes, several diabetes medicines can cause you to gain weight.

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    Oral Medications

    Oral medications are a common treatment avenue for type 2 diabetes. There are many different oral medications, each working in a slightly different way. Your doctor may try several before finding the best combination for you. Each oral medication for diabetes comes with its own side effects and concerns. Understanding the side effects of your medication can be crucial to managing problems as they arise.

    Some oral medications help to shed extra pounds, or at the least do not encourage weight gain. Other oral medications can cause moderate to severe weight gain for a variety of reasons.

    Thiazolidinediones, sold as Avandia and Actos, have a history of causing weight gain, both in added fat storage and significant water retention. These medications are taken either once or twice a day, not necessarily with meals. Weight gain and water retention risks increase with higher dosages, so taking the lowest effective dose may help mitigate the problems.

    Meglitinides such as Starlix and Prandin are taken before every meal like fast-acting insulin. Weight gain is a risk with these medications, though not severe and relatively uncommon. Sulfonylureas are not commonly prescribed due to a wide variety of side effects that outweigh the benefits of the medication. These medications increase insulin production in the pancreas, but can cause moderate weight gain and liver damage.

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    Insulin Therapy

    Insulin therapy is a common treatment comprised of daily injections or an insulin pump. There are many insulin types for many different needs, including forms like Lantus and Levemir that last 24 hours or NovoLog, Humalog and Apidra that you take immediately before a meal and last up to 5 hours.

    Your doctor may prescribe rapid acting or short acting insulin in conjunction with a long acting, once daily injection. The combination helps your body regulate blood glucose levels all day, even after your short-acting insulin has run its course.

    Despite its effectiveness at reducing blood sugar, insulin in nearly any form has long been a culprit in packing extra pounds. Insulin encourages your body to use glucose efficiently, helping your body deliver the glucose to your cells for energy conversion. With the added glucose delivery generated by insulin therapy, excess glucose is stored as fat, increasing your body weight.

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    What Can You Do?

    Eat a proper diet with high-fiber and high-quality carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are important for your overall health, making weight loss easier over time. Exercise regularly and maintain the caloric intake recommended by your doctor or diabetic nutritionist. Talk with your doctor about the medication you are taking if weight gain has become a problem, and see if there is an alternative for you that may encourage overall weight loss.

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

    National Diabetes Education Program: Diabetes Medications

    Johns Hopkins Continuing Medical Education: Premixed Insulin for Type 2 Diabetes

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