Metformin is a medication that has been used for over 60 years to treat type 2 diabetes. Recently, it’s been noticed that beyond controlling blood sugar levels, this drug might have additional health benefits – including possibly helping people live longer and healthier lives.
Scientists have been studying animals like mice and a type of worm called C. elegans, and they found that metformin can help these creatures stay healthy longer. These promising results have led to new studies in people to see if metformin could have similar “anti-aging” benefits for us.
Longer Lifespan is Still A Maybe, But Healthspan Is A Definite YES
Two major studies, called MILES and TAME, are trying to figure out if metformin can help humans live longer, healthier lives. Early results from the MILES study suggest that metformin could influence our bodies at the genetic level in ways that might slow aging. However, it’s not yet clear if metformin would have the same benefits in people who don’t already have a disease like diabetes.
Even though metformin has been around for a long time, we still don’t fully understand how it works on a cellular level. When looking at all the research that’s been done, it’s clear that metformin can help improve “healthspan” – that is, the length of time a person stays healthy, not just how long they live. It does this by helping to manage diabetes, heart disease, mental decline, and even some cancers, which in turn can lead to a longer, healthier life.
But as far as actually extending lifespan – making people live significantly longer – the evidence is not as clear. The key point seems to be that metformin helps to prevent or manage disease, which then leads to a healthier, and potentially longer, life.
In conclusion, the potential “anti-aging” effects of metformin seem to come from its ability to control blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce stress on the body at the cellular level, and protect the blood vessels. But more research is needed to fully understand how metformin might help us stay healthy as we age. [PMC8374068]
The History of Metformin
Metformin, a key medication for type 2 diabetes, traces its roots to the French lilac, or Galega officinalis. This plant was traditionally used to alleviate symptoms we now know to be associated with diabetes. Its active compound, galegine, was effective but also toxic. In response, scientists in the 1920s created metformin, a safer derivative of galegine. Since its introduction in France in the 1950s, metformin has become a worldwide staple in diabetes treatment, demonstrating how nature can inspire modern medicine.
The most common side effects of metformin are digestive problems, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. These side effects can often be managed and only rarely lead to people needing to switch to a different drug. Metformin is considered safe for almost all users. The major exception is that anyone with severe kidney or liver issues must avoid taking metformin. This is due to a rare but serious side effect called lactic acidosis, which can occur in these patients. By taking this precaution, the risk of lactic acidosis is effectively minimized.
A major caution for anyone taking metformin is the side effect of B12 deficiency. Some studies have reported that prolonged use of metformin could result in vitamin B12 deficiency, which affects between 6 to 30% of users. Therefore, it’s critical that anyone taking metformin have B12 supplementation and/or B12 labs. These can be ordered easily from LabCorp or Quest through our affiliate link for B12 Labs. Vitamin B12 and Folate Blood Test or Wellness Panel With Vitamin B12, D, Folate, and Magnesium. Click on the “Labs” link on the top bar above this article for a more extensive list of labs.
Given how widely metformin is used and its range of health benefits, there’s a growing interest in whether it might have anti-aging properties. When we say “anti-aging,” we mean that it helps prevent or treat diseases related to aging, allowing people to stay healthy and free of serious illness for a longer portion of their life.
There’s some debate about how to define and measure this concept of “healthspan,” but for our purposes, we’re talking about reducing the risk of serious illness, which could, in turn, increase overall lifespan.
On the bright side, metformin often leads to weight loss, helps manage blood sugar levels, and doesn’t cause low blood sugar. It’s also been found to be effective in preventing the onset of diabetes in people who are at risk. [PMC1282458] The widespread use of metformin for diabetes really took off after a 20-year study from the UK showed that it had benefits for heart health. Since then, it’s become clear that metformin doesn’t just work in the liver (as was initially thought), but also has important effects in the gut.
Metformin Benefits Beyond Blood Sugar
As a trusted and widely-used treatment for diabetes, metformin has made a name for itself in managing blood sugar levels and enhancing heart health. However, the potential benefits of metformin extend beyond these well-established applications.
In recent years, metformin’s usage has expanded to include the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition in women of reproductive age. Its use has also been tested in the context of preeclampsia, a dangerous complication that can occur during pregnancy.
Additionally, metformin is being studied for its potential benefits in the realm of oncology. Some research suggests that it may have anti-cancer properties, opening up another fascinating avenue of use for this versatile drug.
The benefits of metformin might not stop at chronic conditions. Preliminary studies suggest it may also have a role to play in the treatment of infectious diseases. It’s even being looked at in the context of rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating autoimmune condition.
With its multitude of potential applications, metformin is garnering attention as the “aspirin of the 21st century.” Its potential to extend healthspan—the period of life spent in good health—could make it a key player in the quest for healthier, longer lives. In the end, while much research is still needed, metformin’s potential as a healthspan extender is promising. As we continue to unlock its full potential, metformin could prove to be a versatile ally in our health toolkit.