The study showed that obese adults with impaired glucose tolerance (a decreased ability for the body to use the sugar glucose, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes) who took the drug Xenical had a 42% lower risk of developing the disease within the next four years compared with those who took a placebo.
Based on these findings, the FDA has approved a new label for Xenical describing these potential benefits in reducing the risk of diabetes.
Researchers say it's the first time a weight loss drug has been shown to prevent or delay the progression to type 2 diabetes.
Xenical May Help Prevent Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to produce enough insulin, or respond to insulin properly, in order to meet the body's needs. Insulin is needed to convert sugar (glucose) in the blood into energy.
Being obese or having impaired glucose tolerance substantially increases the risk of developing diabetes over time.
In the study, researchers compared the effects of Xenical vs. a placebo in weight loss and the development of diabetes in 3,300 obese men and women. Nearly 2,600 of the participants had normal glucose tolerance and 600 had impaired glucose tolerance at the start of the study.
After four years, the study showed that people who had impaired glucose tolerance and took Xenical had a 42% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who took the placebo.
However, Xenical did not reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among those with normal glucose tolerance.
The study also showed that weight loss was significantly greater among those taking Xenical than the placebo (15 vs. 9 pounds over four years).
Researchers say they believe the preventive effect of Xenical in reducing the risk of diabetes is due to the additional weight loss that occurred with treatment with the drug, rather than any independent effects of Xenical in glucose or insulin metabolism.