Why some diabetes treatments cause people to pack on pounds

While it may seem counterintuitive that some diabetes treatments cause weight gain in individuals who attempt to lose weight in order to manage their type 2 diabetes, a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine offers insight into how people who use these drugs can avoid excess pounds.

Many people who have type 2 diabetes are prescribed thiazolidinediones (TZDs) to help reduce blood glucose levels. However, some individuals who developed type 2 diabetes as a result of obesity may be hesitant to use medications that can potentially exacerbate their weight problem.

The researchers explained that although previous studies have indicated that TZDs directly cause weight gain by signaling the body to produce more fat cells, the current investigation found that the drugs actually stimulate a pathway in the brain that increases an individual's appetite.

"Just having more fat cells is not enough to make animals or people fatter. Rather you have to eat more calories than you burn and that is exactly what happens when you turn on the brain PPAR-γ system," said lead researcher Randy Seeley.

He noted that the molecular pathway PPAR-y is similarly triggered when people consume high-fat diets.

The investigators used laboratory rodents to determine the role that PPAR-y plays in weight gain. Although all of the animals were fed a high-fat diet that mimicked the eating habits of some unhealthy Americans, the study results showed that rats in which the PPAR-y system had been inhibited gained less weight.

The study's findings indicate that individuals with type 2 diabetes who use TZDs should monitor their diabetic diet diligently to ensure that they are not overeating.

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) offers tips for how people with diabetes can eat foods that will help manage their blood sugar levels without promoting weight gain. For example, although individuals with type 2 diabetes are typically instructed to refrain from eating sweets, the organization suggests that these people drink diet soda or snack on popsicles to help curb their sugar cravings.