Side Effects of Metformin
Are More Serious
Than You Think

The Side Effects of Metformin can range from not so serious, all the way to deadly.  Are the risks of Metformin and Glucophage side effects worth it? This page will give you information that might be able to help you decide that for yourself. Also known as Glucophage, this is an antidiabetic medicine most often used in those with Type 2 Diabetes who are also overweight. It’s also used extensively in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition known as PCOS, which is often accompanied by higher blood sugar readings which often benefit from the blood sugar lowering effects of Metformin.

While at first glance it seems that Side Effects of Metformin are rare, a closer look and a little math show that there are some serious problems that can occur when taking this drug, and others that can and should be prevented easily, but are usually not due to a medical community that simply does not use nutritional supplements in the prevention of even well-known, easily preventable Glucophage side effects.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid Deficiency are well-known and well-studied side effects of Metformin. Despite the fact that there have been many studies confirming this problem over and over again in the medical literature, just like the Side Effects of Nitrous Oxide, few doctors warn their patients of this or recommend that they take simple, cheap over the counter Vitamin B12 Supplements in order to avoid this potentially devastating nutritional deficiency.

In addition, the long term use of the ‘antacid’ drugs known as H2 receptor antagonist or proton pump inhibitors like Famotidine or Omeprazole, some of the most widely prescribed drugs, can increase this risk, as is mentioned in the Omeprazole Side Effects page. 

Side Effects of Metformin. Are the risks worth it?

The Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms range anywhere from just elevated MCV Levels, simple fatigue,  all the way to severe neurologic problems that could easily be misdiagnosed as ‘incurable’ diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease, and the Vitamin B12 deficiency is a risk factor for blood clots in the legs as well, a problem that is not widely known about and is sure to be missed as a symptom of B12 Deficiency 5.

Many studies show that a high percentage of the population, and especially the elderly, are already Vitamin B12 deficient. Since blood tests for Vitamin B12 Levels are virtually worthless, and another blood test that could confirm this finding, the Homocysteine Blood Test, is rarely done, this extremely common problem is rarely discovered or treated by allopathic medical doctors. This is an incredibly sad state of affairs since the treatment is widely available and incredibly safe over-the-counter Vitamin B12 Supplements and these could be easily prescibed to every patient taking metformin if doctors were simply more aware of this serious problem with potentially devastating consequences. 

“Of patients who are prescribed metformin, 10-30% have
evidence of reduced vitamin B12 absorption.”
‘Increased intake of calcium reverses vitamin B12
malabsorption induced by metformin.’

To make matters worse, symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency are so ‘general’, or they manifest as so-called 'incurable diseases', such as Peripheral Neuropathy, dementia, or Multiple Sclerosis that even when the patient comes to the doctor with symptoms of B12 deficiency after years of being on Metformin, doctors STILL won’t recommend taking supplements! Instead they will do inaccurate blood testing or miss the symptoms entirely and not even SUSPECT vitamin B12 deficiency, leaving the patient suffering when it would have been simple to prevent and treat with a substance that is available in every drug store!

A case in point is the following quote from one of the many studies on the phenomenon of Vitamin B12 Malabsorption from Glucophage.

           “The clinician must be aware of the possibility of
 metformin-associated B12 deficiency in users who suffer
cognitive impairment, peripheral neuropathy, subacute combined degeneration of the cord or anaemia.”
Metformin-related vitamin B12 deficiency’   

Notice how is says that the clinician ‘should be aware’ of B12 Deficiency in those who suffer symptoms of long term B12 deficiency, and not just to be aware in everyone who takes the drug! Why is it the ‘standard of care’ in the medical world to give a drug that you know will cause a nutritional deficiency, but then wait for the inevitable deficiency to occur before treating with a simple vitamin? Didn’t your doctor take an oath to ‘first do no harm’? Shouldn’t it be the ‘standard of care’ to PREVENT easy to prevent Metformin Side Effects that are well-known in the medical community and that could cause significant harm if not prevented?

To make matters even worse, most doctors are not even be able to RECOGNIZE the symptoms that he caused when someone comes into his office with those symptoms; then he’ll use an inaccurate blood test that won’t even TELL him if the patient has this problem! 

The situation is a HUGE medical mistake that should never happen, and YOU are left to suffer simply for lack of a simple and cheap vitamin supplement. And they call this 'modern' medicine. Terrible.

Metformin Lactic Acidosis

One of the VERY serious side effects of Metformin is that there is a small risk of a life threatening condition called Metformin Lactic Acidosis. The medical literature calls this a ‘rare’ side effect, however two other drugs in the same class, Phenformin and Buformin, were declared an “imminent hazard” in several countries and removed from the market due to risk of lactic acidosis.

  “The disadvantages are the gastro-intestinal side effects and the potential risk of vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency during long-term use. Metformin associated lactic acidosis is a very rare complication, which has mainly occurred in patients with serious renal insufficiency or other contra-indications to the use of metformin.
Metformin: a review of its pharmacological
properties and therapeutic use. 

Monitoring of the drug in Canada from 1972 to 1983 revealed only 36 cases of lactic acidosis after 56,000 patient-years of use, and happens most often in those who have taken extremely large doses or who have kidney problems. Even though this seems low,it should be taken as a serious risk since it is deadly and will require hospitalization with aggressive measures like dialysis to prevent kidney failure and organ damage. In fact, it’s such a serious problem that once it’s diagnosed, there is a 40%– 50% death rate! So our 36 ‘cases’ above translates to about 15 to 18 people who died from taking this drug. From those numbers, that translates into about 30 deaths for every 100,000 people taking the drug for one year. With over 48 million prescriptions filled in 2010, that could compute to over 14,000 deaths in the US each year! While that is considered ‘rare’ to doctors and researchers, it probably won’t seem so rare if you are the one hospitalized fighting for your life.

Despite the Side Effects of Metformin, it's Effective, Right?

So, there are some serious Side Effects of Metformin, that might be fine for many if the benefits outweigh the risks. After all, there are risks to everything. Well, there is no doubt that Metformin decreases blood sugars in those at risk! Yeah. But lowering blood sugar isn’t everything; if Metformin works, then people should live longer on it, otherwise why would you want to lower your blood sugar if you’d die sooner because you took the drug?

Well, unfortunately, this is not at all clear. There has been one study that showed that the side effects of Metformin gave an overall mortality risk reduction of 10%. However, this has not been backed up by other studies that actually showed an INCREASE in mortality. In one study, of the 720 diabetics who died during the 7.7 years, 18.5% who died were on diet alone, while 25.6% were on metformin, and 31.6% of the deaths were taking a sulfonylurea/metformin combination.”3.  Another study showed that among diabetics, over a 4 year period, there was a 26.3% mortality in those with just diet intervention alone vs 31.6% on Metformin 2.

 Another study that pitted diet and moderate exercise head to head with Metformin showed that  “…the lifestyle intervention reduced the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58% and the metformin intervention reduced the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 31%.” 1. So, you have a ‘questionable’ benefit of increased mortality, and you could reduce your incidence of type 2 diabetes better with diet and exercise anyway!

Alternatives to Metformin

    So, armed with this information, you’ll be better prepared to decide if the risks of the Side Effects of Metformin are worth the questionable benefits. Before you make that decision, you might want be interested in the possible alternatives to Glucophage and Metformin to bring down your blood sugar. If nothing else, just taking inexpensive Vitamin B12 Supplements will eliminate the problems associated with B12 Deficiency and make it a lot safer for you.

GREEN COFFEE BEAN EXTRACT: Has been in the news lately as a safe herbal supplement that helps in utilization of glucose, bringing down blood sugar levels and even helping to burn extra fat because of it. It’s been featured on Dr. Oz and may very well be an alternative to the Side Effects of Metformin. Get Green Coffee Bean Extract Here.

NUTRITION NUTRITION: If you REALLY want to lower your blood sugar or even reverse diabetes, then I would suggest that you get serious about your education because the ADA diet will simply never get you off the drugs. And in fact, it’s almost certain that no matter how healthy you think you eat, or how much you think that you know about nutrition, it’s probably wrong if you are still a diabetic. If you want to step up your education and learn how to get off the cycle of potentially dangerous Side Effects of Metformin and other drugs, then I suggest that you get the cutting edge science they provide in the Healthy Urban Kitchen, along with diet plans and other bonuses to get you started.  You won’t regret it!

Research Used for Side Effects of Metformin

1) The Cost-Effectiveness of Lifestyle Modification or Metformin in Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in Adults with Impaired Glucose Tolerance
2) Antihyperglycemic Treatment in Diabetics with Coronary Disease: Increased Metformin-Associated Mortality over a 5-Year Follow-Up
Oral antidiabetic treatment in patients with coronary disease: Time-related increased mortality on combined glyburide/metformin therapy over a 7.7-year follow-up
Metformin's contraindications: needed for now
5) Hyperhomocysteinemia, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in a Metformin-treated Diabetic Patient

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