Betahistine hydrochloride is a medication commonly prescribed for tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, dizziness and vertigo. As with certain medications, side effects can generate alternative, or off-label, uses. One notable side effect of betahistine hydrochloride is weight loss, which prompted further study of the medication as a potential weight loss drug. Its results are not guaranteed, however, and weight loss may be limited to specific populations.
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According to a 2006 study in "Drug Safety," betahistine hydrochloride was first registered in 1968, and used to treat Meniere's disease, which affects the inner ear and disrupts balance, and the symptoms of vertigo and dizziness. It works by acting on histamine receptor sites; histamine receptor sites line the inner ear and affect fluid balance. The medication stimulates the histamine 1 receptor sites and partially blocks the histamine 3 receptor sites. These actions can dilate blood vessels in the inner ear, dispersing excess fluid, relieving pressure and helping to restore body balance.
Weight loss is best achieved through a variety of means that include a healthy diet, calorie reduction and exercise. Certain medications have also been used to help promote the process, although results are not always consistent. Betahistine hydrochloride has been found to reduce weight in specific populations. The "International Journal of Obesity" published a study in 2008 that found the medication significantly reduced weight in obese women below the age of 50. However, subjects over the age of 50 did not experience significant weight loss.
One of the side effects of anti-psychotic medications, such as olanzapine, is significant weight gain. Recently, the effects of betahistine hydrochloride and olanzapine were studied. A 2005 study in the "International Clinical Psychopharmacology" journal combined the two medications; the results found that the addition of betahistine hydrochloride helped prevent significant weight gain during olanzapine administration. Furthermore, betahistine hydrochloride did not interfere with the effects of olanzapine.
Betahistine hydrochloride has minimal side effects. Skin hypersensitivity was the most common complaint, with patients experiencing rashes and other skin conditions that disappeared when administration was discontinued. Nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea were also reported. The pills themselves contain lactose; thus, if you are lactose intolerant this medication may lead to irritation. Betahistine hydrochloride reacts with certain drugs, so give your physician a current listing of your medications.
Although the medication does have effects on weight, it should not be used as your only means for losing weight. It is recommended of making commitments to permanent lifestyle changes; diet and exercise goals can augment any weight loss medications your doctor recommends.