What is Metformin?

Metformin is one of the most common medications doctor prescribe for patients who have type 2 diabetes. It has the advantage of being one of the least expensive and most effective prescription drugs for treating type 2 diabetes. It also has a good safety profile in people who have normal liver, lung and kidney function. In fact, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, metformin works as well as newer, more expensive diabetic medications and has fewer side-effects.

What is Metformin?

Metformin is a member of the class of diabetes medications known as “biguanides”, drugs that lower blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver. This class of medications has the added benefit of increasing insulin sensitivity, so less insulin is needed to get glucose into cells. It also lowers blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose absorbed by the intestinal tract. All of these factors contribute to better blood sugar control in people who take this medication.

Metformin Isn’t Just for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Doctors sometimes use metformin to treat conditions other than type 2 diabetes. It’s commonly prescribed for people who have fasting blood sugars that are above normal but aren’t in the diabetic range, a condition known as pre-diabetes. According to a study published in Canadian Family Physician, people who took metformin were less likely to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes. So, metformin may help to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes in people who have blood sugars that are higher than normal.
Metformin is also sometimes prescribed for people with polycystic ovary syndrome and for those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, two conditions that are linked with insulin resistance. Research is mixed as to whether metformin is effective for treating these conditions in people who have normal blood sugar levels.

Metformin has also been proposed as a treatment for women with gestational diabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels during pregnancy are higher than normal. According to most research, metformin is as safe and effective as insulin for treating gestational diabetes.

Metformin is a Versatile Medication

Metformin is prescribed by doctors for several diseases linked with insulin resistance. By increasing the ability of cells to respond to insulin, metformin helps to lower blood sugar and insulin levels and prevent progression to more serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Unlike most diabetes medications, it doesn’t cause weight gain and may even cause weight loss in type 2 diabetics who are overweight or obese. It’s also frequently prescribed for treating metabolic syndrome, another condition linked with insulin resistance.

The bottom line? Metformin appears to be safe for most people who have normal kidney, lung and liver function, but all medications have side-effects. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking this blood-sugar lowering medication.