With the endless search for weight loss solutions, people have been consuming countless supplements and pills that tout the magic promise of eliminating fat. Now, a new research revealed that a medicine for treating diabetes can help people lose weight and maintain it for the long-term.

A 15-year study of more than 3,000 people shows that metformin, a diabetes drug, has the potential to help people achieve long-term weight loss (LTWL). Led by Professor John Apolza and funded by the National Institute of Health, the research compared the results of different weight loss programs among people who were obese and had a risk for type 2 diabetes. On the first year, they found that people who were initially put on strict diet and exercise routines did lose more weight than those who took metformin. After 15 years, however, results showed that those who lost weight while taking metformin were more likely to maintain their weight. Meanwhile, those who formerly followed a diet and exercise plan later regained the weight they lost.

What is Metformin?

According to Diabetes.co.uk, Metformin is an oral drug used for the treatment of diabetes. It is approved in the US and UK as a treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Metformin aids diabetes patients by helping them respond normally to insulin. It controls a person’s blood sugar by decreasing the amount of sugar produced by the liver, and reducing the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines.

Because Metformin helps regulate blood sugar in the body, people who take it may have reduced appetite and not be hungry as much. In diabetic patients, weight loss is a side effect of taking metformin.

New study reveals that Metformin helps in long-term weight loss

Researchers divided 3,234 participants into three groups, with each group receiving a different weight loss program. The participants of the study were obese, overweight, or were at a high-risk for diabetes.

The first group was enrolled on an Intensive Lifestyle Intervention (ILI), where participants followed a strict diet and exercise. The second group took an 850mg metformin twice a day. The third group was given a placebo or pretend drug.

After one year, 62.6 percent of the participants in the ILI group, 28.5 percent of participants in the metformin group, and 13.4 percent of participants in the placebo group had lost about 5% of their weight. In this initial result, the people who were more likely to lose weight were those who followed a diet and exercise plan.

However, in the span of years after, it was found that the ILI group had difficulty maintaining the lost weight and sticking to the process. Dr. Kishore Gadde, co-author of the study, says, “People weren’t showing enthusiasm for attending these lifestyle intervention sessions. Diet and exercise enthusiasm generally doesn’t last long.”

After the first year of the study was up, the researchers annually followed up with the groups. Fifteen years later, the results show that among the participants who lost 5% of their body weight in the first year, the percentage who maintained their weight was:

  • 56.5% in the metformin group
  • 48.9% in the diet and exercise group; and
  • 41.7% in the placebo group

Thus, those who took metformin had a higher success rate at long-term weight loss, particularly in the later years of the research.


Although Metformin showed great results at helping people in LTWL, it’s still worth emphasizing that it is not a licensed drug for weight loss. It is a medicine to treat type 2 diabetes. For Metformin to be a proven ‘weight loss pill’, more research and studies should be done for this purpose.

Moreover, the results of the study still remind us of the high percentage of weight loss in the diet and exercise group. It had the highest success rate in the first year and still had a substantial result after 15 years, at 48.9 percent.

It is also important to note that there are external factors that may have been overlooked in the study. The diet and exercise group were enrolled in Intensive Lifestyle Intervention, which, according to the researchers, the participants eventually had difficulty following over the years. This might be due to unsustainable diet plans and intense workout routines that demanded a lot of time.

Consequently, long-term weight loss and fighting diabetes are processes that come hand in hand. Overcoming the problems caused by obesity and diabetes requires continuous healthy habits and practices. As such, it is important to have a medically-proven weight loss plan that will help you stick with these habits. Find out more about Mediweight’s special and results-driven programs here.

By Skyler West

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.