Obesity and overweight affect nearly 40% of American adults, according to the National Center for Health Statistics1. This epidemic has caused many people to turn to fad diets, fat burning supplements and prescription drugs to lose weight fast.
One of the drugs prescribed for weight loss is spironolactone. However, no scientific studies have evaluated this drug specifically for weight loss. Although it is often prescribed, it is not yet known whether spironolactone is effective for weight loss.
What is spironolactone?
Spironolactone (Aldactone) is a prescribed diuretic, which means it causes the removal of fluid from the body, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Spironolactone has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat a variety of health conditions.
The primary function of spironolactone is to treat fluid retention in the body, which often leads to weight loss. However, the weight loss that occurs is only water weight loss. Diuretics effectively remove water from the body, not fat.
Spironolactone is described as a potassium-sparing diuretic, or water pill. When your body flushes out water, spironolactone is supposed to keep your body from absorbing too much sodium and still keep your potassium levels from getting too low.
Spironolactone also blocks the body’s androgen receptor and part of androgen production. Androgens are a group of hormones responsible for male traits and reproductive activity. Androgens are made in the testicles, ovaries and adrenal glands. Testosterone is the main androgen in men and converts to the hormone estrogen in women.
Spironolactone is prescribed for certain uses. For example, a woman with PCOS (which causes high testosterone levels) who is losing her hair or has excess hair growth may be prescribed spironolactone to relieve these symptoms. But people are also using the drug off-label for weight loss and fat loss.
spironolactone Prescrition uses
Spironolactone is prescribed to treat several health conditions, including the following:
- Accumulation of fluids due to liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Low in potassium (it increases levels, hence its name “potassium-sparing”)
- Symptoms Related To Excess Androgen Production In Women
Women who produce too much testosterone are often prescribed spironolactone to decrease the symptoms caused by an overproduction of this hormone. The following conditions are linked to excessive androgen production in women:
- Excessive body or facial hair growth
- Hair loss in women
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
spironolactone for Weightloss
Spironolactone causes the removal of water from the body, which leads to weight loss, but it does not directly cause fat loss. Losing body water is not the same as losing body fat through healthy eating and exercise. You can reduce your bloating by using a diuretic, but the weight will return once body fluid levels return to normal.
In some cases, taking spironolactone can lead to loss of body fat. For example, a woman who already has high testosterone levels that contribute to insulin resistance (making it difficult to lose body fat) may find that reducing these levels with spironolactone aids fat loss.
- On the other hand, testosterone often increases metabolism and facilitates muscle building.
- Lowering these levels with drugs is therefore a double-edged sword. Although spironolactone may relieve symptoms caused by fluid retention and may be useful for specific health conditions, there is no evidence that it promotes long-term healthy weight loss.
No scientific studies have examined spironolactone specifically for weight loss, so its effectiveness for this purpose remains unknown.
spironolactone Typical dosages
Spironolactone is available in 25 milligram (mg), 50 mg, and 100 mg tablets. Your doctor will advise you on the dosage that is right for you.
- For heart failure: 12.5 to 25 mg, once or twice a day, is generally used.
- For swelling or edema caused by heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease: Doctors usually prescribe doses of 25 to 100 mg, once or twice a day.
- For high blood pressure: Dosages are usually 50-100 mg per day.
- For hyperaldosteronism: Doses up to 400 mg per day may be used.
spironolactone Side effects
Taking any prescribed medication, including spironolactone, comes with side effects. Spironolactone can cause changes in blood potassium levels. If the changes are severe enough, they can lead to death. Spironolactone may also interact with other medications and may be harmful if taken during pregnancy. It can cause breast tenderness and stoppage of periods in women, among many other symptoms.
Some of the more common side effects of taking spironolactone include
- Breast tenderness in women
- The sleepiness
- Dry mouth
- Enlarged breast tissue in men (gynecomastia)
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
- Gastric disorders, vomiting and diarrhea
Other more serious side effects include
- Decreased urination
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Numbness or tingling
- Serious skin reactions
- Unusual bleeding or bruising
Although it may help in specific cases, spironolactone is not a weight loss drug. Spironolactone should be used with caution and under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.
Spironolactone is a prescription drug. It acts as a diuretic to remove extra water from the body along with sodium, but it does not reduce potassium.
Spironolactone also blocks androgen receptors. Due to its unique effects, spironolactone has a wide variety of FDA-approved and off-label uses.
There is no evidence that spironolactone works specifically for weight loss. But spironolactone might help reduce weight related to fluid retention, especially in women with bloating and swelling due to PMS.