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Weight gain may be seen in people taking medications for diabetes[1]. However, keeping your weight in check is not only possible but an important part of your diabetes care.

What Is the Effect of Diabetes Medications on Weight?

Bottles of medication on the table

The medications (oral diabetes pills and insulin) that you take for your diabetes lower blood glucose levels by ushering glucose from the blood into the cells. This is good. But if you take in more calories than you can burn, your cells will end up getting more glucose than they need. The excess glucose gets stored as fat leading to weight gain.

Other diabetes medications may increase weight by reducing the amount of glucose passed out in the urine so the body has more excess glucose to store as fat. Yet others contribute to weight gain by increasing fluid retention and appetite.

Related: How to Manage Fasting with Diabetes

Why Is Weight Loss Important for Diabetes?

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Contrary to what many believe, you don’t have to lose a lot of weight and look thin in order to enjoy the benefits of weight loss.

Studies[2], [3] have shown that modest amounts of weight loss in overweight and obese people with diabetes improve blood glucose control, and lower the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Additional benefits of modest weight loss include being less reliant on medications for blood glucose control, as well as improved quality of life and physical functioning.

Related: How to Keep Diabetes at Bay

How Much Weight Should I Lose?

Freshly cooked vegetables

Aim to lose five to ten percent of your current body weight. It is better to set small realistic weight loss goals that you can achieve than lofty ones.

Even if you are not trying to lose weight, making an effort to eat less and eat more healthily can have long-term beneficial health effects[2].

Below is a list of ideas to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Discuss them with your healthcare provider and ask for advice on what works best for you.

  • Plan your meal to have the right mix of carbohydrates (brown rice, wholemeal bread and noodles), fruit and vegetables, meat and others (fish, tofu, beans and nuts, milk and dairy products), and healthy fats and oils.
  • Choose carbohydrates that contain plenty of nutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals) and raise blood glucose slowly or a little.
  • Control portion sizes (amount of food you pile on your plate or bowl). Use My Healthy Plate to help you eat a variety of foods in the right amount.
  • Don’t skip meals to cut calories. In fact, you are more likely to make poor food choices at the next meal because you are too hungry. Furthermore, skipping meals can cause havoc to your blood glucose levels if you don’t adjust your insulin dose. Instead, drink a glass of water before a meal and chew your food slowly.
  • Be physically active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity and resistance exercise two to three times per week. Most people with diabetes can perform exercise safely as long as they take precautions. Talk with your doctor about activities and exercises that are suitable for you.
  • Ask your doctor about other diabetes medications. Check with your doctor whether there are diabetes medications[4] that can promote weight loss and enable you to reduce your insulin dose without affecting your diabetes treatment plan.
  • Take your medications as directed. Don’t skip or reduce medications to avoid weight gain. Although you may lose some weight, the consequences of taking fewer medications than prescribed are serious. Without enough medications, your blood glucose level will rise, and so will your risk of diabetes complications.

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References

  1. Gebel, E. (Oct, 2012). Diabetes Medications and Their Effect on Weight [Website].
    Retrieved October 2016 from http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2012/oct/diabetes-medications-and-their-effect-on-weight.html

  2. Franz, M. J. (Jul, 2007). The Dilemma of Weight Loss in Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum, 20(3), 133-136.
    Retrieved October 2016 from http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/20/3/133

  3. Wing, R. R., Lang, W., Wadden, T. A., Safford, M., Knowler, W. C., Bertoni, A. G., et al. (Jul, 2011). Benefits of Modest Weight Loss in Improving Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 34(7), 1481-1486.
    Retrieved October 2016 from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/7/1481

  4. Gaal, L. V. & Scheen, A. (Jun, 2015). Weight Management in Type 2 Diabetes: Current and Emerging Approaches to Treatment. Diabetes Care, 38(6), 1161-1172.
    Retrieved October 2016 from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/38/6/1161