Dealing With Diabetes Meds And Weight Gain

A common frustration experienced by individuals with type 2 diabetes is the weight gain associated with diabetes medications.

This is especially problematic for individuals who already struggle to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

Meds and Weight

There are many factors at play that can contribute to medication-related weight gain, for instance:

  • Weight gain is a frequent side effect of certain type 2 diabetes medications such as the sulfonylureas, and thiazolidinediones. Yet, other drug types such as metformin (Glucophage), and the incretin mimetics (e.g., Byetta, Victoza, Trulicity) generally do not trigger weight gain, and might boost weight loss.
  • Several diabetes medications lower glucose levels by putting more insulin into the blood stream. Insulin is a growth hormone, and it tends to use extra calories to build tissues, such as fat cells.
  • If people with type 2 diabetes start using insulin there is often some initial weight gain. This happens because insulin helps the body transport blood sugar into cells, so the glucose calories that had been excreted via urine, before using insulin, now get used for fuel—and storage.
  • Some people overeat to get their blood sugar back up after a glucose low (hypoglycemia). Others may compensate for insulin doses that are too high by eating extra snacks, and some individuals over-snack because they worry about experiencing a low. Even if snacking serves a good purpose, too much of it packs on pounds.

Some diabetes drugs may also contribute to weight gain by causing hunger retention, stimulating the appetite, or triggering fluid retention.

Prevention

If medication-related weight gain is a concern, here are five weight prevention tips that may help:

  1. Because there are so many medications available now, individuals concerned about weight gain should talk to their doctor about prescription treatment options. Don’t be afraid to ask why you are using a particular medication when so many others are available. Some physicians stick with tried-and-true drugs, and may need a nudge to prescribe a newer one.
  2. If possible, work with a diabetes educator or dietitian to develop a plan for preventing or minimizing medication weight gain, or to create a strategy for losing weight already acquired.
  3. Treat low blood sugar episodes with glucose products (e.g., tablets, gel); they effectively raise glucose levels back to where they should be, and are low in calories. Avoid treating lows with sugary or processed snack foods.
  4. Eat common sense portions of primarily fresh (not processed) foods with an emphasis on vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, plus other lean protein sources, and healthy fats.
  5. Enjoy an active lifestyle, including regular exercise.

Sources: Mayo Clinic; Diabetic Living Online; ADA

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