Is Metformin the Key to Preventing Aging?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Metformin is an inexpensive generic drug widely used for type 2 diabetes in the U.S. Although it only costs pennies, it is now featured on the World Health Organization’s list of “essential medications.” Now, metformin (the brand is Glucophage) is also being studied for cancer and aging prevention.
You may know that metformin works to lower blood sugar and promote weight loss, but these 10 metformin discoveries may still surprise you.
1.  Metformin (Glucophage) is derived from a plant, the French Lilac.
2.  Metformin helps in diabetics by suppressing hepatic (liver) gluconeogenesis—making sugar. So it reduces glucose production.
3.  In the long run, it also works to change your cholesterol (lipid) metabolism for the better, and increase insulin sensitivity.
The Heart
4.  There is mounting evidence that metformin can offer protection against heart disease in diabetic patients. In a landmark study, metformin lowered the risk of heart attack by 39% compared to other traditional diabetes medications over a period of 10 years.

5.  Metformin has anti-clotting (anti-thrombotic) properties and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
6.  In diabetics, metformin has been found to have a protective role against many cancers: liver, colon, pancreas, ovarian and esophageal.
7.  There is evidence that metformin improves response to radiation and chemotherapy for some cancers.
8.  Though not yet studied in humans, several studies on rodents suggest a life-extending role for metformin. Metformin given to mice late in life was shown to increase life span.
9.  How? It has to do with the relationship between the gut, aging, and metformin. The intestine is home to the majority of the microbes that inhabit our body. The gut microbiota (gut flora) act as an important biomarker for health.
10.  It’s possible that metformin alters the microbiota in a positive way. How gut bacteria promotes longevity is debated but evidence suggests there may be an interaction between the immune system, cell protective mechanisms, and metabolic changes.
Dr O.

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