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Extending lifespan: Is Metformin the answer to anti-ageing prayers?

Extending lifespan: Every time the drug market is abuzz with new formulae which prevent ageing, people pounce on it. One of the latest findings in this direction is Metformin. Originally, a drug to treat type-2 diabetes, it also shows promising results in slowing down the ageing process. Is it really up for grabs or is it too good to be true?

What is metformin?

Metformin has long been used as a medicine and its usage can be tracked and linked with the medicinal herb Galega Officinalis. Evidence of the herb being used to treat digestive ailments and problems related to the urinary tract exists in European medicine history which dates back more than a century. Since the 1950s, post-rediscovery of Metformin, it has been used for the treatment of diabetes in Europe. In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for use in the US. It is one of the most popular drugs used by people suffering from diabetes, to control blood sugar levels.

Can Metformin extend human lifespan?

According to the article, A Critical Review of the Evidence That Metformin Is a Putative Anti-Aging Drug That Enhances Healthspan and Extends Lifespan, published in Frontiers research journal in August 2021, recent laboratory-based studies have yielded promising data supporting the hypothesis that metformin, a well-known medication for treating hyperglycemia, may confer numerous health benefits beyond its primary therapeutic effects. Specifically, evidence suggests that metformin has the potential to slow the cellular ageing process, thus enhancing both health span and lifespan.

One of the mechanisms underlying metformin’s anti-ageing effects is its ability to protect vascular function and improve blood flow, which may in turn slow down the ageing process and protect against age-related cognitive decline. However, it is important to note that not all of the available data is supportive, as some studies have suggested that metformin may be less effective or even ineffective in older humans, despite its demonstrated efficacy in elegans and mice.

Despite these complexities, the accumulating evidence suggests that metformin may hold significant promise as an anti-ageing therapeutic agent, particularly in light of the increasing global burden of age-related diseases. Ongoing research is needed to further elucidate the potential mechanisms underlying metformin’s anti-ageing effects, as well as to identify the optimal patient populations and dosing regimens that may benefit from this promising intervention.

Too early to grab the pill of longevity?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing, in his article, Is metformin a wonder drug?, published by the university in September 2021, says, preliminary studies have suggested that metformin, a medication commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes, may hold promise in the realm of anti-ageing therapeutics. In particular, metformin has been found to improve the body’s responsiveness to insulin, exhibit antioxidant effects, and enhance blood vessel health – all of which may contribute to slowing the ageing process and increasing life expectancy.

However, it is important to note that the vast majority of research regarding metformin has only included individuals with diabetes or prediabetes. As such, it remains unclear whether the potential benefits of metformin extend to individuals without these conditions.

Despite this uncertainty, metformin remains a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes due to its relative affordability and well-understood side-effect profile. While the potential for metformin to prevent or treat age-related diseases and extend life expectancy is intriguing, more compelling evidence is needed before widespread use in individuals without diabetes can be recommended.

Nonetheless, for clinical researchers seeking to repurpose existing medications as potential anti-ageing therapeutics, metformin presents a promising starting point for further exploration and investigation.

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