Metformin: A possible Anti-Aging Drug?

You may know metformin as a diabetes medication, but in recent years it has gained attention as a potential anti-aging medication.

As one of the oldest diabetes drugs in existence and the bedrock of type 2 diabetes treatment, you may be surprised that how it works in diabetes is not well understood. The end result is that it reduces appetite, absorption glucose in the gut, and increases insulin sensitivity. For many people with diabetes, metformin is all they need to control their blood sugar.

Interest in metformin increased in the early 2000s after it was shown to help prevent diabetes in people at risk. A later observational study demonstrated that people with type 2 diabetes on metformin outlived aged-matched controls without diabetes.

Metformin’s possible anti-aging effects are thought to include increased autophagy (cleaning out of damaged cells and components), and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, in addition to improving glucose metabolism.

More recently, it was shown that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, patients with diabetes who took metformin were less likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19 than those who didn’t take metformin.

A large series of trials, known as the TAME trial, is currently underway in the United States to better study the long term anti-aging benefits of metformin. 

As with all medications, there are potential adverse effects from taking metformin. The most common adverse effects are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Some of these side effects can be reduced by taking a long-acting formulation of metformin.

Metformin may also increase lactic acid levels in the blood, and reduce a person’s exercise capacity, due to reduced efficiency of mitochondria. One trial demonstrated that people who take metformin may gain less muscle mass following an exercise program, though they gained the same amount of muscle strength. While metformin may hold a lot of promise as an anti-aging drug, much remains unknown. Until we have results from more studies, it is difficult to quantify the benefits of taking metformin, or what the optimal dosage might be.

If you’re worried about not aging well, it’s important to reach out for help. Do not hesitate to contact our team to discuss the best strategy, find out how to be more proactive and start improving your health.

Dr. Bing Wu
Family Physician

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