Metformin is the most widely used diabetes drug in the world, with roughly 80 million prescriptions filled in 2015 in the United States alone, according to the IMS Health National Prescription Audit. And according to new research from the University of Georgia, exercise can help enhance the blood-sugar-lowering effects of this medicine.
Metformin lowers blood glucose levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering the amount of glucose that is released into the bloodstream by the liver. Typically, it is effective for about four or five years before another medication is needed. To see whether physical activity could be used along with metformin to not only lower blood sugar levels, but to increase the amount of time people can effectively use the medicine, researcher and doctoral candidate Melissa Erickson worked with a group of people with diabetes taking the drug. Participants ate a high-carb breakfast consisting of waffles and syrup, and then walked on a treadmill for 50 minutes while their blood sugar levels were constantly monitored.
Erickson found that, when metformin and exercise were combined, blood sugar levels were lower than when metformin was used alone. Compared with sitting, walking after eating decreased peak after-meal blood sugar levels by 21%.
“It’s not how much exercise you do, but when,” noted University of Georgia Professor Kevin K. MucCully, PhD. “And for this population, the timing after you eat — particularly after breakfast — will have an effect on your blood glucose.”
Longer-term studies are needed, Erickson notes, to fully understand how metformin and exercise interact.
Erickson is currently recruiting participants for the second phase of the study, which will look at what effects exercise has on people with diabetes who are taking metformin along with a second medicine to control their blood sugar levels. Testing generally takes two days and can be done over a weekend. Those who are interested can contact her by e-mail at [email protected].
For more information, see the article “Study finds exercise can help enhance diabetic medication.” And to learn more about metformin, read “Metformin: The Unauthorized Biography,” by diabetes treatment specialist Wil Dubois.
The “EveryDay Steps” walking guide has been launched to help people with Type 2 diabetes develop a walking routine. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.