There are several possible metformin benefits, such as decreasing hemoglobin A1c levels, lowering total cholesterol, and increasing fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). However, as with any medication, there are possible side effects of metformin, and taking metformin is not without risk. Prior to taking metformin, talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of taking the medication.
Metformin (Glucophage) is a prescription medication licensed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In addition to lowering blood sugar, metformin may have additional benefits, including the following:
• Decreasing hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels
• Helping with weight loss
• Lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
• Raising HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
• Increasing fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
• Decreasing miscarriages in women with PCOS.
• Improvements in Fasting Blood Sugar and Hemoglobin A1c
In one study, people who took metformin reduced their fasting blood sugar levels by 53 mg/dL on average, while people who did not take metformin had an increase in their fasting blood sugar levels.
Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a test used to measure long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Normal HbA1c levels are usually less than 6 percent in people without diabetes, and people with diabetes usually have higher HbA1c levels. In one study, people who took metformin reduced their HbA1c levels by 1.4 percent, compared to a gain of 0.4 percent in people who did not take metformin.
Studies have shown that the higher the HbA1c, the greater the chance for developing long-term problems related to diabetes. This includes problems such as heart disease, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic nephropathy. By getting blood sugar levels under control with metformin, it may be possible to decrease the chances for developing these diabetes complications.
Other Benefits of Metformin
Metformin may cause weight loss. In most of the studies of metformin before it was approved, people on metformin lost weight (1.4 to 8.4 pounds on average). However, the people who were not taking metformin also lost weight, and the difference between the groups was not significant, meaning that there was no statistical difference between the two groups.
In other studies, metformin was shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, decreasing total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). Also, metformin was shown to slightly increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Metformin has also been shown to decrease the amount of insulin people need to take.
Other studies have suggested that metformin increases the fertility of women with PCOS and may even decrease the chance of miscarriages in these women.
Metformin has many beneficial effects. However, as with all medicines, metformin side effects are possible, and taking metformin is not without risk. Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of using metformin for your particular situation.