Effects of weight loss with orlistat on glucose tolerance and progression to type 2 diabetes in obese adults

Arch Intern Med. 2000 May 8;160(9):1321-6. doi: 10.1001/archinte.160.9.1321.


Background: Orlistat is a gastrointestinal lipase inhibitor that reduces dietary fat absorption by approximately 30%, promotes weight loss, and may reduce the risk of developing impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes in obese subjects.

Objective: To test the hypothesis that orlistat combined with dietary intervention improves glucose tolerance status and prevents worsening of diabetes status more effectively than placebo.

Methods: We pooled data from 675 obese (body mass index, 30-43 kg/m2) adults at 39 US and European research centers in 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter clinical trials. Subjects received placebo plus a low-energy diet during a 4-week lead-in period. On study day 1, the diet was continued, and subjects were randomized to receive placebo 3 times a day (n=316) or treatment with orlistat, 120 mg 3 times a day (n=359), for 104 weeks. A standard 3-hour oral glucose tolerance test was performed on day 1 and at the end of treatment.

Main outcome measures: The categorical assessment of glucose tolerance status (normal, impaired, diabetic) and changes in status from randomization to end of treatment were the primary efficacy measures. The secondary measures were fasting and postchallenge glucose and insulin levels.

Results: The mean length of follow-up was 582 days. Subjects who were treated with orlistat lost more weight (mean +/- SEM, 6.72 +/- 0.41 kg from initial weight) than subjects who received placebo (3.79+/-0.38 kg; P<.001). A smaller percentage of subjects with impaired glucose tolerance at baseline progressed to diabetic status in the orlistat (3.0%) vs placebo (7.6%) group. Conversely, among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance at baseline, glucose levels normalized in more subjects after orlistat treatment (71.6%) vs placebo (49.1%; P=.04).

Conclusions: The addition of orlistat to a conventional weight loss regimen significantly improved oral glucose tolerance and diminished the rate of progression to the development of impaired glucose tolerance and type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Disease Progression
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Lactones / therapeutic use*
  • Lipase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orlistat
  • Weight Loss*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Lactones
  • Orlistat
  • Lipase