Role of metformin in overweight and obese people without diabetes: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

  • Fuhai Hui
  • Yingshi Zhang
  • Tianshu Ren
  • Xiang Li
  • Mingyi ZhaoEmail author
  • Qingchun ZhaoEmail author



Our aim was to assess the efficacy of metformin for weight loss in overweight and obese people through a systematic review and network meta-analysis and to identify the most suitable dosage and intervention period for using metformin in adolescents and adults.


We searched databases for studies published by April 2018. A total of 34 trials (44 analyses) involving 8461 participants and 16 intervention arms were eligible. The study was registered with PROSPERO International prospective register of systematic reviews (CRD42017081053).


Metformin was found to significantly decrease body mass index percentile (BMI) and had a tendency to decrease BMI (kg/m2) and weight (kg). Significant efficacy was observed in many subgroups. The metaregression may have identified the causes of heterogeneity as metformin dosage, control type, and intervention period. Network meta-analysis revealed that in adolescents, intervention with 2000 mg/day metformin ranked better than other interventions; however, 1000 mg/day metformin for 3 months may be most suitable for adolescents. For adults, metformin at doses of 3000 and 1000 mg/day ranked the highest, other than minimeal and lifestyle interventions; moreover, intervention with 3000 mg/day for 6 months and 1000 mg/day for 0.5 months may be suitable for adults.


When considering the efficacy of interventions for losing weight, metformin offers clear advantages for overweight and obese populations.


Metformin Obesity Adolescent Adults Network meta-analysis 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Table S1 (DOC 18 kb)
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Supplementary Table S3 (DOC 83 kb)
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Fig. S1

Study selection for systematic review and network meta-analysis (PNG 187 kb)

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Fig. S2

Overall efficacy of metformin vs control on body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2) change. (PNG 1239 kb)

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Fig. S3

Overall efficacy of metformin vs control on body mass index (BMI) (percentile) change (PNG 290 kb)

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Fig. S4

Overall efficacy of metformin vs control on weight (kg) change (PNG 1185 kb)

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Fig. S5

Network of eligible comparisons for body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2) in overweight adolescents (PNG 160 kb)

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Fig. S6

Network meta-analysis of body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2) in overweight adolescents. Interventions are reported in decreasing order of efficacy for BMI (kg/m2) according to surface under the cumulative ranking curve (SUCRA). Comparisons between interventions should be read from right to left. For efficacy of intervention, standard mean difference (SMD) < 0 indicates favorable efficacy of the indicated intervention compared with the other interventions (PNG 281 kb)

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Fig. S7

Network inconsistency when checking weight change in overweight adults (PNG 118 kb)

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Fig. S8

Network funnel plot of weight change in overweight adults (PNG 116 kb)

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ESM 1 (DOC 65 kb)
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ESM 2 (DOC 48 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical PharmacyShenyang Pharmaceutical UniversityShenyangPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of PharmacyNorthern Theater Command General HospitalShenyangPeople’s Republic of China

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