The most common type of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes -- your pancreas still produces some insulin, but maybe not enough for your needs or your body doesn't use insulin effectively -- known as insulin resistance. People with Type 2 diabetes may need to take supplemental insulin, but could possibly control blood sugar through diet and exercise alone. Being overweight increases your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes and losing excess body fat can improve insulin sensitivity. Using weight loss pills, with your doctor's supervision, can help speed weight loss and possibly reverse insulin resistance, making diabetes easier to control.
Sold under the brand names Glucophage, Fortamet or Riomet, metformin is a diabetes drug often used to promote weight loss in Type 2 diabetics. Metformin decreases the amount of glucose you can absorb from food and the amount of glucose produced by your liver. By lowering glucose levels, it helps to regulate both blood sugar and insulin. When blood sugar is stable, you have fewer episodes of low blood sugar -- and are less likely to overeat. Metformin can help you eat less, reducing your total caloric intake and promoting weight loss. Metformin is not suitable for Type 1 diabetics who do not produce insulin at all, but can be used by Type 2 diabetics who use supplemental insulin.
Available by prescription as Xenical, or over-the-counter as Alli, orlistat is a weight loss drug that isn't designed specifically for diabetics, but can be used by people with Type 2 diabetes. Orlistat works by blocking the enzyme lipase, which your body needs to break down fats in your intestine. Because up to 25 percent of the fat in your food passes through your body undigested, those calories are not absorbed; because calories are reduced, weight loss may occur. But orlistat does require a low-fat diet; eat too much fat and you may suffer the side-effects of passing large amounts of undigested fat -- oily gassy leakage that can stain your clothing, explosive diarrhea and uncontrollable bowel movements are possible "treatment effects" of orlistat.
Technically not a pill, Byetta -- generic name exenatide -- is an injectable diabetes drug that slows digestion, keeping food in your stomach longer. The longer the digestive process takes, the more time you can wait before eating again. Eating less often should reduce overall calories consumed and promote weight loss. Slowing digestion also slows glucose production and will stabilize glucose and insulin levels. Byetta can be used in conjunction with Glucoaphage for maximum weight loss; and like Glucophage, Byetta is not suitable for Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes and Weight Loss
Maintaining your healthy body weight can help you control your Type 2 diabetes and may even reverse your condition. Although diet drugs can aid weight loss, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet combined with regular physical exercise is important. Avoiding both high and low blood sugars -- hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia -- can help you avoid cravings for sugar and the dangerous complications of diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels increase your risk of heart and kidney disease, nerve damage and blindness.
- Drugs.com: Metformin
- PubMed Health; Orlistat; August 2010
- ADA Diabetes Care: Effect of Orlistat in Overweight and Obese Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Treated With Metformin; J.M. Miles, MD, et. al.; July 2002
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Byetta
- American diabetes Association: Choosing What, How Much, and When to Eat