Bystolic & Weight Loss

Bystolic, a high blood pressure medication, has been demonstrated to have a modest effect on weight loss. However, to date, only one study has demonstrated this effect, and if weight loss is truly your goal, a healthful diet and exercise are likely to be more effective.

About Bystolic

Bystolic, or nebivolol, is a type of drug known as a beta-blocker. It binds to beta-1 receptors on heart muscle and causes a decrease in blood pressure. It also has the rare ability to dilate blood vessels because of its effects mediated by increased nitric oxide production, a vasodilatory chemical, according to Thomas and David Westfall in "Goodman and Gilman's Pharmacology."

Beta Blockers and Weight Gain

According to Dr. Sheldon Sheps, who writes for the Mayo Clinic, most beta blockers tend to cause weight gain -- not loss. This is particularly the case with older beta blockers, including metoprolol and atenolol. The average weight gain is not dramatic -- usually less than 4 lb. -- but doctors don't necessarily understand why it occurs. Sheps says it could either be due to metabolic slowing as a result of the beta blocker, or of increased water retention, particularly if you discontinued a diuretic to start the beta blocker.

Bystolic and Weight Loss

Despite the classic association of beta blockers with weight gain, one study of Bystolic suggests that it may promote modest weight loss in some people. In the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, Dennis Ladage and colleagues report the results of a study in which about 5,000 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure took Bystolic during a 12-week period. At the end of the 12 weeks, an average weight loss of about 2 lb. was noted in study participants.

Impact of Study

Although Ladage and colleagues demonstrated a modest amount of weight loss in their population, theirs is the only study to date that examines the association between Bystolic and weight loss. Other studies need to be performed to confirm or refute its findings. As well, an approximately 2 lb. weight loss over 12 weeks is not a large weight loss. Medline Plus, a project of the National Institutes of Health, recommends a weight loss of 1 to 2 lb. per week in an individual trying to lose weight.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Bystolic is intended to be used as a high blood pressure medication. It might have some effect on weight loss, but based on the best available data to date, it shouldn't be relied upon as a weight loss agent. As always, the best advice for someone trying to lose weight is to eat a healthful diet and get plenty of exercise.