Most of us have been told repeatedly to eat healthy and avoid processed food, particularly as we get older because it’s more likely that our bodies won’t tolerate more processed food than before. But what if there were a medication that could assist us in dropping some pounds without having to give up our favorite foods entirely?
There is, and it’s called doxycycline. You may have heard of it if you’re a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Golden Compass – it’s the main ingredient in both those books, and while the medication doesn’t seem to have much of a role in those particular stories, it does play an integral part in the novels’ overall narratives.
Let’s explore the evidence behind doxycycline and whether or not it’s the miracle drug we’ve all been waiting for.
Why Is It Often Prescribed For Obesity?
Doxycycline is a medication that’s been used for years to treat a number of bacterial infections, most notably acne and rosacea. As part of its antibiotic efficacy, doxycycline destroys the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts and on our skin, allowing our bodies to heal and preventing many infestations and infections.
But in recent years, doctors have been expanding the role of doxycycline, and now it’s more commonly prescribed for a variety of reasons. It’s considered fairly safe when used as prescribed, but there are some side effects that patients need to be aware of – more on that later.
Because of its ability to reduce body fat, doxycycline is often prescribed for people with obesity, especially when paired with a low-calorie diet and exercise. That’s because the drug can slow down the absorption of calories – the rate at which our bodies absorb nutrients – and therefore assist patients in losing weight.
Doxycycline’s ability to reduce body fat also makes it an attractive option for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome, who sometimes struggle with insulin resistance and a compensating rise in insulin secretion. In that case, administering the drug can prevent the insulin resistance and subsequent weight gain that sometimes comes with the condition.
How Does It Work?
The science behind doxycycline is fairly simple, at least in theory. The drug works in a similar manner to other antibiotics, inhibiting the growth of bacteria that are harmful to humans. And because it can reduce body fat in multiple ways, it’s considered a multi-targeted antibiotic. That means that it affects more than one bacterial strain at a time, preventing the body from creating resistance and maintaining effectiveness as the years go by.
When it comes to treating infections, the results of doxycycline are usually very good. But for those hoping to use the medication to lose weight, the results can be frustratingly slow. Several studies have shown that while doxycycline can indeed reduce body fat in patients with obesity, the effects are usually rather modest. In one study, for example, 30 obese patients were given a daily dose of 20 mg of doxycycline for 12 weeks. At the end of that period, they had lost an average of 2.6 pounds. That’s certainly an improvement over the average weight gain of 2.2 pounds that people with obesity are likely to experience over the course of a year.
Other studies have shown similar results, with 12-week studies resulting in an average weight loss of 2.2 to 3.4 pounds per patient. Again, those are very good results compared to the average person’s, but it’s certainly not the magic bullet for obesity that some may have hoped for.
What Are The Most Common Side Effects?
While doxycycline is generally considered a safe and effective medication, just like any other medication, it comes with risks. The most common side effect is GI upset, which can include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. This is usually mild and resolves itself within a few days of starting the drug, but it can be distressing for some patients.
Another side effect that patients need to be aware of is reduced bone mineralization. This is caused by the drug inhibiting the production of vitamin K, which is necessary for the formation and function of bones. In some cases, this can lead to osteopenia, or low bone density. In severe cases, it can cause osteoporosis. The good news is this side effect is usually only temporary, and in most cases, the results of treatment are very good. But it’s still something that needs to be monitored and managed carefully by the patient’s doctor.
Is It Effective For Short-Term Results?
Due to its good safety profile and long history of use, there are many doctors who are comfortable prescribing doxycycline for patients who are just beginning a weight loss regimen. The problem is that while the results of doxycycline are usually good, unless the patient is already at a healthy weight, the benefits usually aren’t lasting very long. In most cases, patients will need to re-dose periodically – perhaps every two weeks – to maintain the results of their treatment.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. In those cases, patients may be able to continue benefiting from doxycycline even after stopping treatment. This is likely because their bodies are still developing resistance to the drug. If a patient is still losing weight after discontinuing treatment, it means their bodies are still creating the same effects as before. In other words, the medication isn’t losing its effectiveness, it’s just that the patient’s body is developing a quicker resistance to it.
In those instances, it may be necessary to try a different medication or treatment approach. For some patients, this could mean trying a low-calorie diet or exercise, both of which can modestly increase the body’s effectiveness of doxycycline – provided the patient is still losing weight after six to eight weeks of treatment.
How Long Does It Take For The Body To Develop Resistance?
One of the biggest problems with doxycycline is that it takes a while for the body to develop resistance to it. This is because the drug works by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, and so when the bacteria adapt and become resistant to the drug, the body still recognizes the effects of the medication and continues to lose weight. In most cases, this adaptation takes place within a few months of beginning treatment and happens more quickly than the patient’s body would normally develop resistance to antibiotics.
In a few instances, patients have had their vitamin K levels tested while taking doxycycline. When these levels are low, it indicates that the drug is inhibiting the body’s ability to properly form bones. In those cases, it may be necessary to adjust the dosage or change medications entirely.
Are There Any Clinical Trials For This Treatment?
While most doctors are comfortable prescribing doxycycline for patients with obesity, there aren’t any good studies that examine the effects of the drug on weight loss. There is, however, one study that examined the effects of doxycycline on insulin resistance in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. In that trial, 12 women with the condition were given a daily dose of 20 mg of doxycycline for 12 weeks. At the end of that period, the medication had reduced their insulin resistance by 40% and improved their tolerance to glucose by 34%. If you or a loved one are struggling with insulin resistance and struggling with weight gain, this could be a good option for treatment.
Overall, doxycycline is a safe and effective medication when used as prescribed. But as with any other weight loss medication, it isn’t going to help everyone. For some people, it may be a useful addition to a low-calorie diet and workout regimen. For others, it could be a way to combat specific infections. If you’re interested in trying it, be sure to consult with your doctor so that he can monitor your progress and prescribe the right dosage for you.