Is Metformin safe to use for weight loss in non-diabetics? UAE doctors weigh in

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Metformin, a drug mainly used to treat type-2 diabetes, is the “safest” available medication for weight loss, a UAE-based doctor told Al Arabiya English, but advised that people should consult with a doctor first.

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“Metformin is the safest and low-priced drug available for weight loss. It’s always better to consult a doctor before starting the medication and get a prescription from the doctor,” Dr. Azeem Abdul Salam Mohamad, Specialist- Internal Medicine at Bareen International Hospital in Abu Dhabi’s MBZ City said.

“We had been noticing increased usage of metformin as an agent to control insulin resistance.”

Primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, Metformin works to improve insulin sensitivity, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It has been found to have a secondary effect of helping some people to lose weight.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. As a result, the body produces more insulin to try and regulate blood sugar levels, but this can lead to weight gain.

Metformin helps regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the amount of glucose the liver produces, which can lead to a decrease in insulin resistance and sometimes to weight loss.

“There has been an increase in the usage of Metformin in non-diabetic patients in the UAE. I personally use Metformin for prediabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), especially for those who are overweight and obese,” Dr. Faisal Hamza Dalvi, Specialist Endocrinologist at Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Day Surgery Center in Al Reem Island, told Al Arabiya English.

“But I tell my patients to use it in conjunction with diet and exercise.”

He explained that he uses Metformin for patients with PCOS because it helps them lose weight and also helps regulate their menstrual cycle, adding that there are studies which have also proven it can help with ovulation induction.

Proceed with caution

However, Dr. Mohamad warned that taking the drug can be dangerous if the person taking it has an underlying health issue.

“Metformin should be used cautiously in presence of renal dysfunction, liver diseases and in alcoholics,” Mohamad explained.

The doctor also advised that “Metformin should be stopped prior to administration of intravenous contrast as part of radiological procedures like MRI or CT scans.”

Metformin is also associated with several side effects, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort, Dr. Dalvi warned.

“Metformin can also cause Vitamin B12 deficiency as it reduces intestinal absorption of Vitamin B12. Lactic acidosis is also a rare complication.”

The doctor also said, “The medication should be used with caution in patients with renal impairment, heart failure, and sepsis.”

Dr. Dalvi emphasized the importance of being assessed by a doctor first before starting the medication.

“It is very important that a doctor should assess the patient first, whether he is a candidate for Metformin, and decide accordingly.”

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