Type 2 Meds and Weight Gain: The Reason Why

If you are taking a type 2 diabetes medication containing TZDs (thiazolidinediones) and are gaining weight, some scientists might have discovered why.

Hunger Pangs

The brains of humans, and lab animals, have hunger-stimulating cells located in the hypothalamus. There are sensors on these hunger-stimulating cells that play a role in the use of energy (sugar). When these sensors are activated in lab animals:

  1. It triggers food intake and hoarding behaviors, and stimulates the production of more hunger-stimulating cells.
  2. As the hunger-stimulating cells are activated, lab animals become immediately hungry—they will even wake up from a sound sleep and begin eating.

This is significant for those with type 2 diabetes since TZDs - compounds that help the body’s insulin work properly - activate the sensors on hunger-stimulating cells.

“People taking these TZDs [e.g., Actos, Avandia, Avandamet] are hungrier, and they do gain more weight,” said researcher Johnny Garretson. “This may be why.”

It’s Helpful News, Really

At first glance, this might seem discouraging news for those taking meds with TZDs. How unfair that a doctor will admonish patients to keep excess weight off, and then prescribe a pill that stimulates appetite.

However, knowing about TZDs gives individuals the knowledge necessary to out-smart its hunger-effects. For instance:

  • Having an abundance of low-glycemic, nutritious snacks on hand, and leaving sweets and junk food on the grocery store shelves, will help keep extra pounds at bay.
  • Increasing physical activity can offset the workings of an increased appetite.
  • Eating plenty of protein and healthy fats helps people feel satisfied longer after enjoying a meal.
  • Drinking more water or other unsweetened beverages can assuage hunger without adding calories.
  • Preparing a plethora of low-glycemic vegetables can fill a dinner plate, and a stomach, without spiking blood sugar.

It's Those TZDs

Most drugs have side effects, but we take them when the positives overshadow possible negatives. TZD medications are usually prescribed when other drugs fail to keep blood sugar within target range—crucial for people struggling with tough to control diabetes.

Still, if you started on a TZD medication and noticed weight gain, it may be reassuring to know you are not suffering from a suddenly weak will, or an increase in bad eating habits. Though still having to deal with heightened hunger, you can at least point an accusing finger at TZDs and the sensitivity of your amazing brain.

Sources: Science Daily; Webmd
Photo credit: Dennis Skley

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