Anti-Ageing Therapy: The Pros and Cons of MetforminWhen a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cannot control their blood sugar level through diet and exercise, one of the first medications prescribed is metformin. Apart from taking metformin for diabetes, this wonder drug is also known to lower inflammation and help protect the heart. In addition, some evidence shows that metformin benefits may include helping to fight the effects of ageing and increasing lifespan.
Metformin is a medication typically prescribed to help manage type 2 diabetes. Research is showing that metformin benefits could expand to that of anti-ageing due to its activating AMPK capabilities.
Studies into metformin anti ageing indicate the promise of slowing down cellular ageing, improving blood flow, protecting us against age-related cognitive decline and inhibiting the inflammatory pathway.
It is important to remember that the ageing process is not a disease. However, it is the driving force behind all age-related diseases. As older populations increase across the globe, the last decade has seen a rise in anti-ageing research and the potential of drugs like metformin.
There is still a lot of research needed to be completed before confirming the long-term effects of metformin as an anti-ageing therapy. This drug should also not replace non-pharmacologic interventions like diet and exercise
When a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cannot control their blood sugar level through diet and exercise, one of the first medications prescribed is metformin. Apart from taking metformin for diabetes, this wonder drug is also known to lower inflammation and help protect the heart. In addition, some evidence shows that metformin benefits may include helping to fight the effects of ageing and increasing lifespan.
As nice as the thought of taking a pill to help us live longer or at least undo some of the effects of old age, the studies on metformin's potential as an anti-ageing drug are still up for debate. There is certainly not enough known to recommend taking this medication purely for anti-ageing, but the research on animals is showing some positive outcomes.
In this article, we will look at the potential of metformin as a longevity drug, along with the pros and cons of taking anti-ageing pills as part of an anti-ageing lifestyle.
How Does Metformin Work as an Anti-Ageing Pill?
Metformin is most commonly used as a prescribed drug when diet and exercise alone are not helping to balance glucose levels. This is because it effectively improves how the body responds to insulin to burn glucose in the body as energy – this is especially important in TD2 and gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy). Metformin has also been found to slow down the body's ageing process by decreasing the risk of some diseases and bodily functions that damage the body and speed up ageing.
In a 2021 study published by Frontier in Endocrinology, researchers reported that their data supported the hypothesis that metformin has benefits, which could slow cellular ageing and enhance healthspan and lifespan. In addition, metformin may also slow the ageing process via improved blood flow, protect against age-related cognitive decline and inhibit the inflammatory pathway.
One of the main ways metformin works for anti-ageing is by activating AMPK, an enzyme inside cells that lowers blood sugar by promoting energy consumption. But activating AMPK does more than help with blood sugar control. It could also help prevent and even reverse the life-shortening effects of ageing. In addition, AMPK is relevant in all tissues, potentially making metformin effective in reducing metabolic imbalances in the entire body.
The Pros and Cons of Metformin for Anti-Ageing Therapy
Although the inevitable ageing process is not a disease, it is directly linked to lifespan and the driving force behind all age-related diseases. With the global rise in older populations, the last decade has seen a boost in intensive research on anti-ageing treatments. This has led to the discovery of a variety of drugs – including the use of metformin.
Some of the most reported pros of metformin include the following:
Weight Loss – Although metformin is usually referred to as a 'weight neutral' medication, some studies have suggested that it can help people shift unwanted weight. For example, a 2018 study by the College of Medicine at Central Michigan University reported that research has found metformin is known to have a beneficial impact on weight loss and energy metabolism.
Cardiovascular Benefits – It is understood that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. Metformin's protective effects have been confirmed in both animal and human studies, as reported by scientists at the School of Biology and Biological Engineering, South China University of Technology.
Brain Health – A 2021 study by researchers at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine stated that metformin is showing potential in slowing down age-related cognitive impairment. The results from their research provide new evidence that metformin treatment starting in late middle age has promise for improving cognitive function in old age.
Cost – The price of metformin can vary, and the form and strength will often determine the amount you pay. However, it is generally considered an inexpensive medication, which is also one of the reasons scientists research it so heavily.
Like many medications, there is some risk of unpleasant side effects when taking metformin. It is usually recommended to start at a low dose and slowly increase the amount over time, depending on its impact on your blood sugar levels. Here are some of the most common side effects as reported by the HSOA Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders:
Diarrhoea – Some people have reported some form of diarrhoea when they start taking metformin. Flatulence and abdominal bloating can also occur, but these symptoms are often dose-related.
Nausea – Another gastrointestinal side effect of metformin is nausea. It is thought to affect some users and is reported to be more common if a slow-release formula is not being taken.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency – When taking metformin, you can experience a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestine. This can result in B12 deficiency, leaving you feeling tired and experiencing other anaemia symptoms.
Taste and Smell – Although not considered a significant symptom, some people have reported metformin tablets smelling and tasting unpleasant. Some say metformin smells fishy and tastes metallic.
It has been suggested the medication is taken at mealtimes to help reduce the unpleasant side effects of metformin. The dose or formula may also be changed if early symptoms do not improve or are severe. Overall, metformin is well tolerated by humans, and not many people have to stop taking it due to side effects.
A Healthy Anti-Ageing Lifestyle
There is concern that people will view metformin as a 'quick-fix solution for ageing. It should not be used at the expense of non-pharmacologic interventions, such as diet, exercise, and other health-related lifestyle changes. There is also the risk that the use of metformin could negate some of the positive effects of exercise and lifestyle and result in less favourable results in older people.
Although we are still waiting for the completion of studies to determine whether metformin works as an anti-ageing pill, some people have figured out how to get metformin prescription without diabetes. However, it is not advisable to use this medication if you are unsure of the correct metformin dosage or form for your needs. How to take metformin will be down to preference and its intended purpose. It can come as a liquid, tablet or extended-release tablet.
Anti-ageing pills should not be used as a replacement for following a healthy lifestyle. The aim should be to stay healthy and biologically efficient. This is one of the reasons why people keep an eye on their biological age and focus on exercise and nutrition.
As reported by the United Nations, virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the size and proportion of older persons. The number of older people is estimated to double to 1.6 billion in 2050. So it is no surprise many of us are searching for ways to support ageing well.
Metformin is generally well-tolerated, and its long history of clinical use makes it an attractive candidate. In addition, this compound has more beneficial results than any anti-diabetic drug in reducing age-related conditions.
It should be noted that conclusions, such as that found in the 2016 paper entitled "Metformin: A Hopeful Promise in Ageing Research", have resulted in many positive results from laboratories using metformin doses that exceed therapeutic levels in humans. The initial results of metformin for anti-ageing are positive, but more work is needed to clarify various aspects that still remain unclear.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can metformin make you look younger?
There is a lot of research into the effects metformin could have on anti-ageing. It has been found that metformin is showing positive signs of reducing some inflammatory skin disorders, including psoriasis, acne and allergic contact dermatitis. In addition, it is understood that the longevity effect of metformin may increase when started in younger years, so people may appear more youthful as they age. However, the research is still ongoing and not yet inclusive.
Why is metformin called the miracle drug?
Metformin has been referred to as a miracle drug due to its relatively low cost, minimal risks, and ability to ward off diabetes and potentially some effects of ageing. It is most commonly used to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, but it has also been found to offer them cardiovascular benefits. This has resulted in some studies showing lower death rates due to cardiovascular disease.
How much longer do people on metformin live?
The studies into mortality rates and metformin have so far been based on people taking the medication for type 2 diabetes. Researchers have been comparing mortality rates of diabetes patients with subjects without diabetes. Early findings, such as the study led by C.A. Bannister at Cardiff University, shows metformin could help people live longer, but a lot more data is required before being able to confirm whether people do live longer on metformin and for how much longer.
What is the downside of taking metformin?
As with most medications, there are some potential side effects when taking metformin. One of the major concerns is vitamin B12 deficiency when the drug is taken for an extended period of time. Vitamin B12 deficiency can make you feel fatigued, breathless and faint, so your blood levels need to be monitored. If vitamin B12 levels become too low, they can be topped up with supplements.
Why do some doctors not prescribe metformin?
There are some countries where it may be possible to be given metformin for off-label use, such as for anti-ageing. In the UK, metformin is a prescription-only medicine used to help reduce blood sugar levels. The NHS will not provide a prescription for metformin to be applied for off-label use. Much more research is needed into the longer-term effect of non-diabetic people taking metformin before it is considered a confirmed anti-ageing pill.
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