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Metformin: Can It Help With Insulin Resistance?

Medically reviewed by 
Metformin: Can It Help With Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance affects the body’s ability to properly use the hormone insulin, which over time increases blood sugar and the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can significantly affect metabolic health when not managed effectively. However, some individuals with this condition struggle to reverse insulin resistance with healthy lifestyle habits alone.

This article answers the question: “does metformin help with insulin resistance?” It explores the effectiveness of metformin in managing insulin resistance, particularly in people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).


What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It’s secreted in response to sugars that undergo digestion and enter the bloodstream. When cells within the body function properly, insulin helps move sugar from the blood (blood sugar) into muscles, liver, fat cells, and other body tissues.

People with insulin resistance aren’t sensitive to insulin, causing excess insulin production and eventually (if not treated) high blood sugar, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes.

Insulin Resistance Symptoms

Insulin resistance typically appears over time, often because of lack of exercise and excess body fat — particularly belly fat. It affects more than 84 million adults (about 1 in 3 adults) in the United States.

While insulin resistance itself may not cause any symptoms, if it leads to high blood sugar it can contribute to:

Insulin resistance and excess insulin production over time increase the risk of high triglycerides, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke

What is Metformin?

Metformin is a diabetes medication used to treat high blood sugar caused by type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes; it also helps reduce insulin resistance. Individuals with these two types of diabetes aren’t able to effectively use insulin to move sugar from the blood into their muscle, liver, or fat cells. 

Some people take metformin along with other medications or synthetic insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check, restoring the way their bodies utilize food to produce energy. 

The dosage of metformin is important, as the amount taken must balance the type of food eaten and the amount of exercise an individual participates in. Metformin isn’t used for patients with type 1 diabetes, as they control their blood sugar using insulin injections. 

Metformin requires a prescription. It’s available in the form of tablets, solutions, and suspensions. 

How Does Metformin Work?

Metformin works to reduce blood sugar by decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver, reducing intestinal absorption and enhancing insulin sensitivity. This results in metformin lowering blood sugar. This medication also plays a vital role in treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by reducing insulin, androgen, and luteinizing hormone levels. 

Metformin may help protect the heart and aid in modest weight loss, further adding to its many benefits for use in diabetes treatments. 

Because the liver doesn’t significantly metabolize metformin, it's important to monitor kidney function during metformin treatment to ensure utmost effectiveness and safety. 

The Role of Metformin in Managing Insulin Resistance

Studies found that metforman is the most common treatment for improving insulin sensitivity in people with insulin resistance, as this medication boosts glucose utilization among the various body cells. 

Metformin for Insulin Resistance and PCOS

The specific benefits of metformin for people with PCOS include:

Lower levels of androgen in women with PCOSares often beneficial because excess androgen associated with the disease can lead to excess facial or body hair, severe acne, and male-pattern baldness

Taking metformin also helps women with PCOS struggling with infertility to ovulate, increasing their risk of becoming pregnant.

Who Should Consider Metformin?

Individuals who may consider metformin include those who have or are at risk of insulin resistance. Examples of potential candidates include people diagnosed with:

Metformin is the only antidiabetic medication recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for prediabetes.

Before taking metformin, a healthcare provider reviews its pros and cons to determine if an individual is a candidate for this medicine based on their medical history, body weight, symptoms, lifestyle, current medication regimen, and lab test results.

Potential Side Effects and Management

As with most other medications, metformin may cause side effects, including:

Patients should report any stomach pain, trouble breathing, tingling, or numbness, muscle weakness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, discomfort, fatigue, or dizziness to their provider immediately. 

Strategies that help minimize discomfort or adverse reactions include taking metformin exactly as directed and reporting any alarming side effects to a healthcare provider right away. Checking blood sugar regularly and reporting any irregularities helps a provider properly adjust metformin dosing. 

Contraindications and Precautions

Taking metformin isn’t for everyone. Premenopausal women have an increased potential for becoming pregnant when taking this medication. People with liver or kidney issues aren’t good candidates for metformin. 

Patients may have to stop taking metformin if they need surgery or a CT scan, MRI, or another imaging procedure. 

Metformin can decrease vitamin B12 and folic acid in the body, so it’s important for individuals taking this medicine to consume enough vitamins and eat nutritious foods rich in micronutrients.

Implementing Metformin into Your Treatment Plan

Patients should take metformin exactly as directed to ensure its effectiveness. Take metformin by mouth with water and food. Don’t stop taking the medication unless directed to by a healthcare provider. 

Typical dosing schedules vary based on the reason for metformin use, but often consist of doses of 500-2,550 milligrams daily. Metformin is available in immediate-release forms requiring twice-daily doses or extended-release forms requiring once-daily doses.  

Begin with a “start low, go slow” approach when taking metformin for the first time. Individuals who miss doses shouldn’t double up on their next dosage. 

Metformin can interact with certain medications, some dietary supplements, and alcohol. Patients should avoid skipping meals and carry a quick source of sugar, such as glucose tablets, with them in case of low blood sugar associated with metformin. 

Healthcare providers can measure blood sugar control every few months (more often if needed) until they establish just the right dose. They might need to adjust medication doses because of changes in diet, exercise, or body weight. Store metformin at room temperature and protect it from light and moisture. 

People taking metformin should wear an ID bracelet and carry a card describing their diagnoses and the specifics of their medications dosing. 

Monitoring and Adjustments

It’s critical for healthcare providers to routinely monitor patients taking metformin. This includes discussing any symptom or side effects and completing routine lab tests and medical checkups to fine-tune dosing or better manage any side effects. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does metformin help with insulin resistance? The following information addresses frequently asked questions regarding metformin and insulin resistance:

How long does it take for metformin to reduce insulin resistance?

Metformin generally takes about three hours to take effect after its administration. Individuals may notice blood sugar control improvements after 1-2 weeks with full effects of the medicine appearing after 2-3 months

Will I lose weight if I take metformin?

Probably. Studies found that taking metformin is an inexpensive, safe medication that aids in modest weight loss and helps protect the heart. However, diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and other factors also affect body weight.

What is the long-term effect of taking metformin?

The long-term effects of taking metformin for people with insulin resistance is improved insulin sensitivity, better blood glucose control, a lower-risk of diabetes, or better diabetes management. Sometimes patients can eventually stop taking metformin. It can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency over time, which is why routine medical monitoring is critical.


Key Takeaways

So, does metformin help with insulin resistance? Individuals with insulin resistance may experience numerous benefits by taking metformin if healthy lifestyle changes alone haven’t improved blood sugar control. Examples of the potential advantages of metformin include:

Individuals should take a comprehensive approach to treating insulin resistance by taking metformin or other medications if necessary, making healthy lifestyle changes, and seeking medical supervision and guidance.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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