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From the book 'Losing Weight With Your Diabetes Medication' by David Mendosa. Copyright © 2007. Reprinted by arrangement with Marlowe and Company (now part of Da Capo Press), a member of the Perseus Books Group. All rights reserved.
I learned that I had type 2 diabetes in February 1994. A dozen years later, I knew I had to make a change. Technically speaking, I was "morbidly obese." I'm tall - 6 feet, 2½ inches - but I tipped the scales at 312 pounds and had a body mass index (BMI) of 40.
I was ashamed that I weighed so much. At the same time, 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 in its effect on blood glucose control. But when I studied its prescribing information, I saw that people in the clinical trials lost an average of only about six pounds after thirty weeks. I wasn't impressed. Then I spoke to Dr. Joe Prendergast, an endocrinologist whom I have admired for years, and he told me that the average weight loss for his two hundred patients on Byetta was 35 pounds after nine months.
How could his patients lose so much more than those in the clinical trials? I think it was because the clinical trial participants were told not to do anything differently. But Dr. Joe encouraged his patients to eat less 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 know about Byetta. When I asked him to prescribe it for me, he read the clinical trial results and decided I wouldn't lose much weight on it. So I determined to find 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. He wrote that he was eager to start some of his patients on Byetta and that I could be the first, if I wished.
I did wish, and my wish for lower weight and better health came true. Byetta didn't cause me to lose weight, but it made losing weight easier. How? By cutting my appetite so that I was seldom hungry any more. Byetta reduces appetite in two ways. It slows gastric emptying, and it also affects the central nervous system, triggering a feeling of satiety. On Byetta, I totally changed what and how much I ate.
Since I knew that about half of people who take Byetta experience nausea, I prepared for it by eating very little from the first. As a result, I've had almost no negative side effects. The only nausea I experienced was for about three hours after I took the first shot.
Once I started injecting Byetta, I began to lose weight immediately. I soon noticed that my trousers and shirts were too loose, and I enjoyed hearing friends tell me how much thinner I looked. While many things in life are a vicious circle, Byetta and energy are a virtuous circle: The more weight I lost and the more I exercised, the more energy I had. All this feedback gave me more motivation than ever to keep on losing weight. I also noticed that I needed less and less food to fill my stomach as it got smaller.
Since starting on Byetta less than two years ago, my weight has dropped from 312 to 181 pounds. From the start I told everyone who would listen that my goal by October 26, 2007, was to weigh less than when the U.S. Army honorably discharged me fifty years earlier. That meant weighing less than 195 pounds, which would give 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 from 6.8 percent to 4.6 percent, despite stopping the other diabetes drugs I was taking when I started Byetta. The arthritis that I had is totally gone. I also had elevated liver enzymes that showed I had a fatty liver, which can lead to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and then liver failure. Now, my liver enzymes are normal.
My blood pressure was never all that high, but it too has come down, from 140 over 80 to about 100 over 60. That's well below the "normal" level of 120 over 80. My total cholesterol has dropped from 225 to 155, well within the normal range of under 200. My LDL cholesterol has dropped from 158 to 93, below the recommended level of under 100. My HDL cholesterol - the good stuff - has gone from 28 to 40, right at the recommended level. My triglycerides went from 193 to 109. 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 least ten years younger. I have far more energy than I have had in years, and my mood is much more positive. My diabetes is under control. It may not be cured, but it certainly is in remission. Now, one problem that I don't have to carry is the invidious label "obese" or "overweight."
Editor's note: Although Byetta often has the side effect of weight loss, using Byetta is not a guarantee that you will lose weight. Many people do lose weight, but not everyone. Byetta is a medication recommended to help treat diabetes. Do not make any medication changes without talking with your healthcare team first.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.