In mice, diabetes drug metformin tied to longer, healthier lives

July 30, 2013
In mice, diabetes drug metformin tied to longer, healthier lives
Study corroborates other research showing the drug may have benefits beyond diabetes care.

(HealthDay)—A new study in mice hints that the widely used diabetes drug metformin might have life-extending benefits beyond its effects on diabetes.

The study found that a small dose of , given regularly in middle age, boosted the health of mice and extended their lives, while a larger dose shortened their lives.

"Aging is a behind metabolic syndrome and . Given that metformin is clinically proven to alleviate symptoms of these conditions, and reduce risk of cancer, we thought perhaps it was a good candidate to study for its broader effects on health and ," study leader Rafael de Cabo, of the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), explained in a U.S. National Institutes of Health news release.

The drug was given to the mice beginning in and two doses of metformin—0.1 percent and 1 percent—were tested by the international team of scientists. The mice that received the 0.1 percent dose lived nearly 6 percent longer than mice in a group that received no metformin, the researchers said.

But the mice that received the larger dose of metformin had their lifespans shortened by an average of more than 14 percent compared to mice not on the drug, likely due to .

On the other hand, the lower dose of metformin did not appear to have any effect on the kidneys, according to the study published in the July 30 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

According to the study, metformin appears to boost the use of fat for energy in mice and it also helped them maintain body weight as they aged, a characteristic that other studies have found is associated with longer survival.

The mice that received metformin also had lower rates of , a common health problem in the strain of mice used in the study. Metformin also prevented the onset of metabolic syndrome—a group of symptoms that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and —and appeared to have some antioxidant effects in the rodents.

Metformin, which has been used for decades to treat , improves insulin sensitivity, spurs sugar to be converted to energy and prevents sugar buildup in the liver. It also reduces risk of health issues associated with .

One expert said the study does seem promising.

"This study is highly credible and suggests that metformin may be useful to treat a range of age-related diseases, possibly including cancer in humans," said Charles Mobbs, a professor of neuroscience, endocrinology and geriatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

"It should be noted that mice do not develop diabetes with age (their blood glucose actually tends to fall with age) so the protective effects of metformin to increase lifespan is probably not due to its anti-diabetic effects, per se," he added.

According to the study's authors, the new findings suggest that metformin may mimic some of the health benefits of calorie restriction—limiting the amount of calories taken in each day from food— that have been seen in some studies with animals.

While the findings of the new study are promising, scientists note that research involving animals often fails to produce similar results in humans.

"The mechanism of action of metformin, by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, corroborate its health-improving effects," said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

However, Mezitis, who was not involved in the new research, cautioned that "studies in humans should confirm the health improvement data in ."

Still, Mobbs remained optimistic.

"Metformin is widely prescribed to diabetic patients, and produces among the lowest mortality rate in these patients compared to other drugs used to treat diabetes," Mobbs said. "Several studies have demonstrated the drug extends lifespan and reduces tumor burden in other animal models, so the present results are highly credible."

He added that "obviously, metformin should only be used under the care of a physician. At present the drug is only approved for use to treat diabetes, though this may change."

Explore further: Post-breast cancer, metformin has no effect on mortality

More information: The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines good health habits at age 60 and beyond.

Related Stories

Post-breast cancer, metformin has no effect on mortality

July 3, 2013
(HealthDay)—For older women with diabetes and breast cancer, there is no association between metformin use and all-cause or breast cancer-specific mortality, according to a study published online April 30 in Diabetes Care.

Diabetes drug may protect the brain

July 15, 2013
(HealthDay)—The diabetes drug metformin may do more than help control blood sugar levels: New research suggests it may also reduce the risk of dementia.

Imeglimin beneficial as add-on to metformin in T2DM

December 14, 2012
(HealthDay)—For patients with type 2 diabetes inadequately controlled by metformin alone, addition of the new oral anti-diabetes agent imeglimin improves glycemic control with good tolerability and safety, according to ...

Study: Most-used diabetes drug works in different way than previously thought

January 6, 2013
A team, led by senior author Morris J. Birnbaum, MD, PhD, the Willard and Rhoda Ware Professor of Medicine, with the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, ...

Popular diabetes drug does not improve survival rates after cancer

May 9, 2013
Despite previous scientific studies that suggest diabetes drug metformin has anti-cancer properties, a new, first-of-its-kind study from Women's College Hospital has found the drug may not actually improve survival rates ...

Lung cancer risk unaffected by metformin use in diabetes

August 30, 2012
(HealthDay)—Patients with type 2 diabetes who take metformin do not have a reduced risk of lung cancer, in contrast to previous observational studies, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in Diabetes Care.

Recommended for you

Genetic discovery may help better identify children at risk for type 1 diabetes

January 17, 2018
Six novel chromosomal regions identified by scientists leading a large, prospective study of children at risk for type 1 diabetes will enable the discovery of more genes that cause the disease and more targets for treating ...

Thirty-year study shows women who breastfeed for six months or more reduce their diabetes risk

January 16, 2018
In a long-term national study, breastfeeding for six months or longer cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly in half for women throughout their childbearing years, according to new Kaiser Permanente research published ...

Women who have gestational diabetes in pregnancy are at higher risk of future health issues

January 16, 2018
Women who have gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy have a higher than usual risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease in the future, according to new research led by the ...

Diabetes gene found that causes low and high blood sugar levels in the same family

January 15, 2018
A study of families with rare blood sugar conditions has revealed a new gene thought to be critical in the regulation of insulin, the key hormone in diabetes.

Discovery could lead to new therapies for diabetics

January 12, 2018
New research by MDI Biological Laboratory scientist Sandra Rieger, Ph.D., and her team has demonstrated that an enzyme she had previously identified as playing a role in peripheral neuropathy induced by cancer chemotherapy ...

Enzyme shown to regulate inflammation and metabolism in fat tissue

January 11, 2018
The human body has two primary kinds of fat—white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity, and brown fat, which burns calories in order to produce heat and has garnered interest as a potential means ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Macrocompassion
not rated yet Jul 31, 2013
My experience with this drug showed that it improved my resistance against catching colds.
Tom_Hennessy
not rated yet Aug 01, 2013
A few curious things here are , metformin lowers iron levels , iron restriction mimics 'the effects of csaloric restriction,' and iron deprivation is being used in diabetes and nafld , the same diseases metformin is used? Could it be , as is hypothesised , increased iron leads to diabetes and metformin works by removing the elevated iron?
"findings strongly suggest that the age-related accumulation in muscle iron contributes to increased oxidative stress and sarcopenia, and that caloric restriction effectively attenuates these negative effects.".
"Does metformin improve polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms through reduction in body iron stores? "
"Iron Depletion Therapy for Type 2 DM and NAFLD".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.