Can This Anti-Seizure Drug Really Help You Lose Weight?
- April 20, 2021
If there’s a way to safely drop lbs while relaxing on the couch and watching Real Housewives, that’s definitely something we want to know about.
Welp, some people say Topamax is that magic weight-loss bullet the world has been waiting for.
The drug was designed to treat and prevent seizures and migraines, but people who took it started to notice that they also lost weight on it. In fact, the makers of Topamax specifically list “weight loss” as a common side effect of taking the drug.
Still, this is a drug that’s made to help control seizures and migraines—not weight loss—which definitely raises a red flag if you’re thinking of taking it just to lose weight.
If You Take Topamax For Weight Loss, You’re Going Off-Label
The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as being safe for treating seizures and migraines—but it’s not a drug that weight-loss physicians would usually recommend, says Peter LePort, M.D., a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “It’s a serious medication,” he says. “Whether it’s safe to use for dieting is really up in the air right now.”
Worth pointing out: Topamax comes with a bunch of other potential side effects that you really don’t want to mess with. We’re talking an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, vision problems that can lead to blindness, an increase in the level of acid in your blood (which can lead to soft bones and kidney stones), and birth defects if you take it when you’re pregnant.
People Who Take Topamax Do Lose Weight—But There’s A Huge Catch
A few studies have looked at Topamax and weight loss. One, which was published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, analyzed existing research and found that Topamax led to an average of seven and a half pounds of weight loss in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. But—and this is a big but—it increased the likelihood that a patient would have “serious adverse events” like the side effects we mentioned above.
Another meta-analysis of 10 studies published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that obese patients lost an average of 12 pounds on Topamax, compared to those who took a placebo. Those who took the drug for 28 weeks or longer had more significant weight loss than those who took it for a smaller amount of time. But again, the study conclusion mentions that side effects need to be considered.
“This is not a weight loss that’s going to happen in a week or two.”
And a JAMA meta-analysis and review of several drugs that could cause weight loss found that Topamax led obese patients to lose at least 5 percent of their body weight after taking it for a year.
Worth pointing out: Topamax hasn’t been studied for weight loss in a long-term, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which is the gold standard for research. It’s also only been studied in people with obesity, so it’s hard to say how it might impact someone who just wants to drop a little weight. And, again, there are those side effects, which every study seems to warn about.
Another thing you should know: It would take some solid time to lose weight with this drug. “This is not a weight loss that’s going to happen in a week or two,” LePort says.
As for whether this could work for long-term weight loss, LePort says that “nobody really knows.” But, he points this out, “what has mostly been found with weight-loss medications is they may work while they’re being taken—but the idea is not to take them forever. A lot of patients gain the weight back after they stop taking it.”
Would It Be A Horrible Idea To Still Be Interested In Taking It?
Potential side effects are the biggie here. While plenty of people take Topamax for its intended purpose and have no issues, others have pretty major ones. Also, you need a prescription for this, and it’s pretty unlikely your doctor is going to love the idea of prescribing this for weight loss when it’s designed to treat other health conditions.
So…it’s probably best to talk to your doctor about other options.
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