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Children's Health

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Metformin May Help Obese Teens Lose Weight

Diabetes Drug Plus Lifestyle Changes Help Obese Children Shed Pounds, Lower BMI
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 1, 2010 -- The diabetes drug metformin may help obese teenagers lose weight when combined with healthy lifestyle changes.

A new study shows that non-diabetic obese teenagers treated with metformin XR (extended release formulation) along with healthy lifestyle modifications had a more significant decrease in body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight in relation to height used to indicate obesity) than those treated with lifestyle changes alone.

Researchers say although metformin is commonly used to treat obesity in teenagers without diabetes, there haven’t been any studies to confirm its effectiveness as an obesity treatment.

Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the U.S. over the last 50 years, and nearly a third of all children in the U.S. are now considered overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood is associated with significant health risks, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and risk of heart disease as an adult.

Researchers say childhood obesity is treated with healthy lifestyle interventions, including diet and exercise, but studies show the success of these efforts varies greatly.

New Childhood Obesity Treatment

In the study, researchers compared the effects of treatment with metformin combined with healthy diet and exercise changes vs. placebo with lifestyle intervention in 77 obese teenagers over 48 weeks, followed by an additional 48-week follow-up period.

The results showed that the BMI of teens who received metformin in addition to lifestyle changes decreased 0.9 after 48 weeks’ study, compared to a 0.2 increase in the placebo group.

Researchers say the BMI difference between the two groups persisted for up to six months after they stopped taking the drug.

“These results indicate that metformin may have an important role in the treatment of adolescent obesity,” write researcher Darrell M. Wilson, MD, of the division of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at Stanford University, and colleagues in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. “Longer-term studies will be needed to define the effects of metformin treatment on obesity-related disease risk in this population.”

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