Metabolic Health

Know All About Metformin For Type 2 Diabetes

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Metformin For Type 2 Diabetes - Benefits and Side Effects

Metformin is prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes if they cannot control their blood sugar levels well enough through diet and exercise alone. The medication helps lower blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and making cells more sensitive to insulin. Metformin does not cause weight loss, but it can help obese people lose weight as part of a healthy lifestyle program that includes diet and exercise. Some people are not eligible to take Metformin because they have liver or kidney problems or a condition called acidosis. Other medications may interfere with the drug's ability to work and add to the risk of side effects.

Why Take Metformin?

Metformin helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body, which can help people living with type 2 diabetes. Metformin is recommended as the first line of treatment for type 2 diabetes because it reduces the risk of developing heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes. Additionally, it reduces the risk of developing kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage.

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How does Metformin work?

Metformin works to decrease the amount of glucose released into the blood from the liver and reduces the glucose amount absorbed into fat and muscle cells. Metformin also improves insulin sensitivity, which can help further control blood glucose levels.

What does Metformin Contain?

Metformin contains 500 mg of metformin hydrochloride, the active ingredient. It also contains carboxymethyl cellulose, citric acid monohydrate, and magnesium stearate.

Key Facts about Metformin

  • Metformin works best when combined with lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and weight loss when needed.
  • Metformin may also decrease blood cholesterol levels in some people.
  • It is also prescribed to treat metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, and certain cancers. Metformin can be used alone or combined with other drugs and is not addictive.
  • Metformin also helps prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people at risk for developing it (e.g., those who are overweight and have high blood sugar).

Type 2 Diabetes and Metformin

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body processes glucose, or sugar. This disease is characterised by insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. Insulin is needed to convert sugar into energy in our cells. When there's too much sugar in our blood, it can lead to complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness.

How does Metformin Help to Control and Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Metformin lowers blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of glucose produced in the liver, and increasing insulin sensitivity in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Metformin helps the body produce more insulin that can help the body use glucose for energy. It also reduces the amount of glucose released from the stomach into the intestines. As a result, it slows down how quickly food empties from your stomach into your intestines so that your blood sugar levels lower after you eat.

When to Start Taking Metformin?

Metformin is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It may be prescribed to those diagnosed with prediabetes, or those at high risk of developing diabetes and are not responding to lifestyle changes alone.

There are no initial standard guidelines on how much Metformin to prescribe, as it depends on a person’s weight, blood sugar levels, and how well they respond to the medication.

Benefits of Metformin

Metformin has several benefits, including -

  • Lowers blood sugar levels.
  • Reduces the risk of heart diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Increases insulin sensitivity.
  • Improve cholesterol level.
  • Prevents kidney damage.
  • Helps with weight loss.

Side Effects of Metformin

Metformin side effects are often overlooked by patients and doctors alike. Metformin has been found to cause the following side effects -

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Insomnia.

Alternatives to Metformin for Type 2 Diabetes

There are many alternatives to Metformin for type 2 diabetes. These alternatives can be used in conjunction with Metformin or as a replacement. 

The first alternative to Metformin is insulin, typically prescribed via injections or an insulin pump. Often when someone cannot take Metformin because of its side effects or if they have kidney problems. The downside of using direct insulin is that it needs to be monitored carefully, and it also has side effects like weight gain, hypoglycemia, and even heart failure.

Another alternative to Metformin is the drug Dapagliflozin. This drug is an SGLT2 inhibitor that reduces blood sugar levels and helps control them. It can also help reduce weight, an essential factor in type 2 diabetes health management. Apart from Dapagliflozin, other drugs can manage type 2 diabetes, such as TZDs, GLP-1 agonists, insulin secretagogues, and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (AGIs).

Other Alternatives include-

1. Sulfonylureas

These drugs stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin and lower blood sugar levels. In use since the 1950s, but they have some side effects like weight gain, low blood sugar, and hypoglycemia.

2. Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors

These drugs slow down the digestion process and slowly release carbohydrates into the bloodstream, lowering postprandial glucose levels.

3. Exenatide

It's an injectable medicine that works by slowing down the release of sugar into the blood after a meal.

Taking Metformin without having Diabetes

There are several reasons why you should not take Metformin when you don't have diabetes:

  1. There are side effects associated with taking this medication if you do not need it. For example, the medicine can cause stomach upset and diarrhoea.
  2. The drug may drop your blood sugar levels too low and lead to hypoglycemia, which can be dangerous for those without diabetes.

Foods Or Drinks to Avoid While Taking Metformin?

There are some food items and drinks that you should avoid while consuming Metformin:

  • Alcohol can increase the risk of lactic acidosis, a serious condition that can lead to death.
  • Caffeine can increase your blood pressure, making your diabetes worse.
  • Fruit juices and fruit drinks, as they contain natural sugars.
  • High-sugar foods such as candy, soft drinks, and baked goods.

Duration of Taking Metformin

The duration to take Metformin depends on your diagnosis and how well your body responds to the drug.


Metformin is a drug used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects how your body uses sugar. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, and type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body's cells do not react to it. Type 2 diabetes is more common and accounts for about 90% of all cases of diabetes in adults. The goal of treatment for type 2 diabetes is to control blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible without causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Metformin is the most common and well-known medication for diabetes. It is an oral medication that helps regulate blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver and improving insulin sensitivity. These aids allow cells to take up glucose from the blood more efficiently. Metformin also increases glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) levels, a hormone released from cells in the small intestine after a meal, which decreases appetite and slows stomach emptying.

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