U.S. News & World Report: Metformin may help young patients with bipolar disorder avoid weight gain

U.S. News & World Report highlighted recent research led by the University of Cincinnati and Northwell Health that found the drug metformin can help prevent or reduce weight gain in youth taking medication to treat bipolar disorder.

Medications to treat bipolar disorder, known as second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs), are often effective at helping young patients’ mental health improve but can have significant side effects including elevated blood pressure and glucose, increased appetite and weight gain.

A total of 1,565 patients aged 8-19 with bipolar disorder taking SGAs were enrolled in the study. Everyone enrolled in the trial received a lifestyle intervention with recommendations for healthy eating and exercise. Half of the youth were randomized to receive the healthy lifestyle intervention and were prescribed metformin, a medication typically used for Type 2 diabetes known to also prevent weight gain. 

UC’s Jeffrey Welge, PhD, said in the short-term six-month follow-up data, metformin had a modest but significant effect at preventing and in some cases reversing weight gain in the study’s patient population. The drug was also found to be safe, with some gastrointestinal distress symptoms being the only side effects reported.

“It’s not a drug you take and weight falls off of you, but it tends to reduce that out of control appetite which we think then makes it easier for patients to adhere to a healthy diet and as they lose some weight maybe also make it easier for them to engage in more exercise,” said Welge, professor in UC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience and Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences. “So, the lifestyle is really what’s driving good outcomes, but metformin is in some cases putting the wind at their back to help with that.”

Read the U.S. News & World Report article.

Read more about the research.

Featured illustration at top of children in silhouette walking with colorful backpacks. Photo/A-Digit/iStock.

Related Stories


Cape Girardeau, Missouri news highlights UC clinical trial

February 20, 2024

KFVS-TV in Cape Girardeau, Missouri highlighted a University of Cincinnati clinical trial testing a wearable neurostimulation device to help patients with opioid use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder stick with medication treatment while finding the right dose.