Metformin: A Fountain of Youth Pill for Only Five Cents?

By Roy Krebs

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Metformin, a controversial drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, has been getting a lot of hype lately -- and once you start reading about it, it’s easy to see why.

Research points to its potential for helping with:  

  • Weight loss
  • Anti-aging (life extension)
  • Cancer prevention
  • Brain health
  • Overall health and wellbeing

Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Cornell Medicine, claims “metformin may have already saved more people from cancer deaths than any drug in history,” and that the drug is “our only real clue into the business” of fighting the disease. [1]

Could metformin be a miracle “fountain of youth” drug for the future?  

Let’s review the history and uses of the drug to get a better understanding of why people like Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof, take metformin to improve their cognitive function. [2]

What is Metformin and How Does it Work?

Metformin is a prescription medication primarily used to treat high blood sugar levels caused by type 2 diabetes.

How does it do this? By acting on the liver to reduce the production of glucose while decreasing the amount of glucose absorbed by the intestines.

What’s more, the drug is surprisingly inexpensive -- a 30-day supply of 500 mg tablets can cost as little as $4.

Metformin Off-Label Benefits

Metformin is FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. But with this promising new research, doctors are starting to prescribe it for a host of other problems.

Researchers observed that diabetes patients who took metformin tended to be healthier than patients who took other diabetes medications.

The metformin-taking patients tended to have better heart health and were less likely to develop age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. [3]

It also seems to lower the possibility of cancer in diabetes patients.

Since that discovery was made, researchers and biohackers alike have been intrigued by metformin’s anti-tumor properties. [4]

And list of benefits that metformin may offer both diabetics and non-diabetics keeps growing.

Weight Loss

Numerous studies have shown that metformin promotes weight loss in overweight and obese patients.

This discovery means that some doctors have started to prescribe the drug to control weight loss in non-diabetic people as well. [5,6]

How does it work? Since metformin regulates blood sugar levels, it essentially has the effect of reducing food cravings.

Since it also reduces glucose levels, this means that it lowers the body’s potential to store excess sugar as fat.

It may also heighten an individual’s sensitivity to leptin, a hormone that signals satiety to the brain.

Cancer

Cancer researcher Kevin Struhl out of Harvard was surprised to discover that metformin was remarkably effective at killing cancer cells -- specifically stem cells.

This is a big deal, since stem cells typically aren’t destroyed by chemotherapy treatment.  

Struhl’s experiments found that when mice with cancer were treated with chemotherapy alone, their tumors eventually returned.

But with a combination of chemotherapy and metformin, the tumors did not grow back. [7]

Cognitive Health

Metformin is also promising in that it may have the power to slow or stop diseases related to age-related cognitive decline.

Why? Insulin is involved in brain function, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have problems with reduced insulin sensitivity in the brain.

Metformin has the potential to fix brain-related insulin problems.

It can also help to keep the brain “clear” of the protein or “plaque” that appear to cause Alzheimer’s.


Other Benefits

Metformin appears to reduce the risk of heart disease as well as a host of other health problems, many of which are especially dangerous for diabetics. [8]

On another interesting note, it may also help to alleviate the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a disease that is thought to affect at least 4% of women.

The hormonal disorder causes symptoms like irregular menstrual periods, infertility, acne, excess hair growth, weight gain, trouble losing weight, and the formation of cysts in the ovaries.

Metformin may help some women with PCOS by regulating insulin and hormone levels, and possibly even increasing fertility. [9]

Side Effects of Metformin

Researchers claim that metformin has a solid safety profile, especially given its low cost and effectiveness in treating certain health problems, specifically diabetes. [10]

Side effects are generally not common, but people sometimes report:

  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain

Anxiety, blurred vision, nausea, and seizures (as well as other side effects) are possible, but rare. An extremely rare side effect is lactic acidosis, which can be fatal.

Of course, both positive and negative effects can vary from person to person, so even if you believe you are in good health, check with your doctor about the best dosage for you.

Patients who are pregnant or nursing, or who have heart failure, alcoholism, or kidney problems should not take metformin.  

Dosage

Different patients are prescribed different doses of metformin based on their individual needs.

Diabetics typically take 1,000 mg per day of Fortamet, 500 mg per day of Glucophage, 500 mg per day of Glumetza, or 500 mg per day of metformin with insulin.

Doctors generally do not prescribe more than 2,000-2,500 mg per day.

The liquid solution form of metformin is typically prescribed starting at 5 mL twice a day. The dose may be increased, but generally should not exceed 25 mL per day.

When & How to take Metformin

The tablet form of metformin is typically prescribed starting at 500 mg twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

The extended-release tablet should be swallowed whole with a full glass of water. It should not be crushed, broken, or chewed.

The oral liquid form of metformin should be measured using a medicine cup, measuring spoon, or oral syringe.  

To reduce the possibility of gastrointestinal side effects, especially during the few weeks of taking metformin, it should be taken immediately after meals.

You should take metformin at about the same time(s) each day to help you remember.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of lactic acidosis, a rare but serious side effect of metformin that can be fatal.  

Drinking alcohol while taking metformin can also cause your blood sugar to drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia.  

Gastrointestinal Side Effects

The most widely reported side effects associated with metformin are gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

For many patients, these side effects will lessen or even disappear over time.  

Because this side effect is relatively common, it’s recommended that you start with a low dose with a plan to gradually increase it over time to minimize the risk of stomach problems.  

Is Metformin Right for You?

Though you may not be ready to hop on the bandwagon and start taking this right away like Dave Asprey, I for one, am excited to keep following the research.

Although much of the research is too new to tell whether metformin offers the long-term off-label benefits we discuss here, studies show plenty of promise.   

Even in its potential for handling diabetes-related health problems alone, metformin already stands out as an exceptionally life-improving drug.  

But if a single pill has the potential to help us with memory and focus, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, cancer, weight management, and more, it could literally be life-changing.

Who wouldn’t want a drug that could help us manage so many diseases, so that we’ll not only live longer, but truly enjoy our lives to the fullest?  

You’re interested in metformin, be sure to ask your doctor for details.  

Do you have any experience with metformin? What are your thoughts?

Please share below -- we’d love to hear from you!  

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