Diabetes Drug Metformin May Increase Lifespan, Reduce Heart Disease Risk [STUDY]
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Scientists believe the metformin has this effect on mice because the pill mimics a low-calorie diet in mice and maintains their body weight, things which are thought to promote healthy aging. In the study, metformin increased the lives of mice by a few weeks, or by about six percent. That may not sound like a lot, but it translates to about 3 to 4 years in human lives.
"It's clear that we are edging toward developing a pharmaceutical intervention that is going to be able to delay or postpone aging," said study conductor Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore, Md. "For how much and how long I have no idea."
In the study, published in Nature Communications, de Cabo and his team gave two groups of mice in middle age differing doses of metformin. One group of mice wsa given a 0.1 percent dose and the other was given 1 percent.
The mice that received the 0.1 percent metformin dose were the ones who lived about six percent longer, and were also more resistant to diabetes and heart disease. But too much metformin proved to be a bad thing: the mice receiving a 1 percent dose had had lifespans which were 14 percent less than mice given no metformin.
The shortened lifespan in the mice given the larger dose of metformin may have been due to kidney failure. The low-dose mice didn't appear to have any kidney problems.
"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 of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, who wasn't involved in the study.
While the metformin study is promising, a study in humans would need to be conducted before metformin starts getting prescribed to those who don't have diabetes. Still, Mobbs said, the study shows further evidence of metformin's benefits.
"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."
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