Diabetes medication may help patients lose weight

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Aug 19, 2015 06:00 AM EDT

SEELOW, BRANDENBURG - AUGUST 08: Country doctor Dieter Baermann measures the blood sugar level of an elderly patient in the patient's home on August 8, 2011 in Sachsendorf near Seelow, Germany. Baermann works in the state of Brandenburg in eastern Germany, a region that is struggling with a shortage of doctors in rural areas. Critics charge that current laws actually discourage doctors from taking up posts in rural areas, and the German government is debating a new law intended to reverse the trend. Many doctors across Germany complain about a legal system that they claim burdens them with too many costs and hampers their ability to provide the best care. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images) (Photo : Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

As much as $245 billion was spent for diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is prevalent among 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population. Recently, a study showed that a diabetes drug treatment may be effective in helping obese diabetic patients lose weight.

WebMD reports that the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association studied 846 obese or overweight diabetes patients, with one group given 1.8 mg of liraglitude, and another 3 mg of the same drug daily. The other group was given placebo. Liraglutide is a non-insulin medicine that help maintain blood sugar levels in adults afflicted with type 2 diabetes.

Results of the study showed that those who took 1.8 mg of medication lost around 11 lbs or five percent of their body weight, while those who took placebo lost only 5 lbs or two percent of their body weight. Additionally, around 25 percent of those who took a 3 mg dose of liraglitude lost at least 10 percent of their body weight, while 16 percent of the 1.8 mg group lost the same amount, and 7 percent of the placebo users lost also 10 percent of their body weight. All of the participants in the study undergone a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

WebMD reports that according to lead researcher Dr. Melanie Davies, a professor of diabetes medicine at the University of Leicester in the U.K., "We now have evidence that supports the use of the 3 mg-dose for weight loss in patients with type 2 diabetes."

Davies said that the 3 mg dose of liraglutide helped diabetes patients lose at least five percent of body weight. She added: "this higher dose of [liraglutide] provided additional blood sugar-lowering than the dose currently licensed to treat patients with diabetes."

However, the US Food and Drug Administration has only approved the 1.8 mg dose for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The FDA approved the 3 mg dose for the treatment of weight loss only. According to Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, "We can prescribe up to 1.8 mg for diabetes, that is the highest dose, but insurance companies will not approve the 3 mg-dose for diabetes."

However, he did not see any problem in using the higher dosage of liraglutide. It's just a matter of cost for the patients.

Aside from drugs, diet also plays a crucial part in any diabetic's battle with the disease. Men's Health reports that according to Scott Isaacs, M.D., an endocrinologist and obesity specialist in Atlanta, Georgia, "Most diabetes experts don’t endorse the GI index because it doesn’t translate to the real world in any way. You can’t add up the GI index of individual foods in a meal and make a prediction of how your blood sugar will respond."

Duke University's Dr. Eric Westman's advice is simple: "The best way to control blood sugar is to avoid foods that raise it in the first place."

Westman also encourages low-carb plans that help manage diabetes. According to Men's Health, the doctor did an experiment to check if low-glycemic diets work better than low-carb diets. Results showed that when participants were asked to decrease carb intake to 20 grams per day, their average was at 29 grams. After 24 weeks, however, participants not only lost 23 lbs, but also showed improved glucose measures, increased good HDL cholesterol, and decreased triglycerides. This, among other studies, showed that in fighting diabetes, it is also best to change one's eating habits.

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