Losing Weight With Your Diabetes Medication

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By: David Mendosa

I learned that I had type 2 diabetes in February 1994. A dozen years later, Iknew I had to make a change. Technically speaking, I was "morbidly obese." I'mtall – 6 feet, 2½ inches – but I tipped the scales at 312 pounds and hada body mass index (BMI) of 40.

I was ashamed that I weighed so much. At the sametime, I had almost given up hope that I could ever get down to a normal weight.In February 2006, I decided to try Byetta.

Byetta's Positive Side Effect

I was more interested in Byetta's positive side effect – weight loss – than inits effect on blood glucose control. But when I studied its prescribinginformation, I saw that people in the clinical trials lost an average of onlyabout six pounds after thirty weeks. I wasn't impressed. Then I spoke to Dr. JoePrendergast, an endocrinologist whom I have admired for years, and he told methat the average weight loss for his two hundred patients on Byetta was 35pounds after nine months.

How could his patients lose so much more than those inthe clinical trials? I think it was because the clinical trial participants weretold not to do anything differently. But Dr. Joe encouraged his patients to eatless and exercise more, which is precisely what I wanted to do.

I Find a Doctor

My regular doctor, who had been nagging me for years to lose weight, didn't knowabout Byetta. When I asked him to prescribe it for me, he read the clinicaltrial results and decided I wouldn't lose much weight on it. So I determined tofind a different doctor. My salvation came in the form of Jeffry N. Gerber, MD,a family doctor who specializes in encouraging his patients to lose weight. Hewrote that he was eager to start some of his patients on Byetta and that I couldbe the first, if I wished.

I did wish, and my wish for lower weight and better health came true. Byettadidn't cause me to lose weight, but it made losing weight easier. How? Bycutting my appetite so that I was seldom hungry any more. Byetta reducesappetite in two ways. It slows gastric emptying, and it also affects the centralnervous system, triggering a feeling of satiety. On Byetta, I totally changedwhat and how much I ate.

Since I knew that about half of people who take Byetta experience nausea, Iprepared for it by eating very little from the first. As a result, I've hadalmost no negative side effects. The only nausea I experienced was for aboutthree hours after I took the first shot.

Once I started injecting Byetta, I began to lose weight immediately. I soonnoticed that my trousers and shirts were too loose, and I enjoyed hearingfriends tell me how much thinner I looked. While many things in life are avicious circle, Byetta and energy are a virtuous circle: The more weight I lostand the more I exercised, the more energy I had. All this feedback gave me moremotivation than ever to keep on losing weight. I also noticed that I needed lessand less food to fill my stomach as it got smaller.

Since starting on Byetta less than two years ago, my weight has dropped from 312to 181 pounds. From the start I told everyone who would listen that my goal byOctober 26, 2007, was to weigh less than when the U.S. Army honorably dischargedme fifty years earlier. That meant weighing less than 195 pounds, which wouldgive me a BMI in the normal range. I have already passed that goal!

With my lower weight, my blood glucose level has come way down. My A1C went from6.8 percent to 4.6 percent, despite stopping the other diabetes drugs I wastaking when I started Byetta. The arthritis that I had is totally gone. I alsohad elevated liver enzymes that showed I had a fatty liver, which can lead tononalcoholic steatohepatitis and then liver failure. Now, my liver enzymes arenormal.

My blood pressure was never all that high, but it too has come down, from 140over 80 to about 100 over 60. That's well below the "normal" level of 120 over80. My total cholesterol has dropped from 225 to 155, well within the normalrange of under 200. My LDL cholesterol has dropped from 158 to 93, below therecommended level of under 100. My HDL cholesterol – the good stuff – has gonefrom 28 to 40, right at the recommended level. My triglycerides went from 193 to109. That too is well within the normal range of up to 150.

Now that my weight and blood glucose levels are under control, I feel at leastten years younger. I have far more energy than I have had in years, and my moodis much more positive. My diabetes is under control. It may not be cured, but itcertainly is in remission. Now, one problem that I don't have to carry is theinvidious label "obese" or "overweight."

Editor's note: Although Byetta often has the side effect ofweight loss, using Byetta is not a guarantee that you will lose weight. Manypeople do lose weight, but not everyone. Byetta is a medication recommended tohelp treat diabetes. Do not make any medication changes without talking withyour healthcare team first.

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