Blog 4

Exploring Metformin as a Potential Longevity Drug

I have struggled to keep a normal healthy weight since the late 90s. I remember a doctor in Berkley, California telling me that if I got down to 135 lbs all my health concerns (which were few) could be managed without medications. At that time, it was only a matter of losing 15 pounds! The food environment I was in was healthy but heavy on carbohydrates and diary. I worked out frequently at Curves, aerobic Tai Chi classes and yoga, but honestly rarely broke a sweat … sorry y’all – Southern girls “glisten”. I did not “glisten”.

Fast forward to the present day and I am 30 pounds away from the 135 target and have had to rely on medication to manage my high blood pressure and cholesterol. It was so easy to pass off my “failure” to a lack of discipline, sitting too long at a computer and aging. Not great for one’s self-esteem! Regardless of the blame game, like many, I’m looking for healthy solutions to reduce my weight and hopefully eliminate the need for multiple medications which can produce serious and uncomfortable side effects as we age.

Yep, as part of this challenge, I did blood work which showed I was on the high side of normal for my blood sugar … just a ½ point away from being pre-diabetic! And by BMI standards, I am overweight. The risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic strokes, certain types of cancers and Alzheimer’s all increase with obesity. None of us want to go into a health crisis being overweight, obese or morbidly obese.

Second only to smoking, obesity is the second leading risk factor to premature death. Obesity will also cause a cascade of negative events for most at the end of life. According to WHO, nearly 40% of the world’s population are overweight or obese. Those stats are expected to climb to 60%. I’ve noticed larger chairs in the doctor’s office and ER. Hospital beds, Hoyer lifts and wheelchairs are all redesigned to assist in transfer of obese patients. The whole medical profession seems to accommodate for our growing body mass index, while only beginning to go to the source of the problem.

The good news … and there is some, “diabesity” is preventable and in some cases reversible!

While doing research for this HealthSpan Challenge, I have watched along with many of you about the promising results of Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and now Zepbound for the epidemic of “diabesity”. Sadly, these drugs are very expensive, costing over $1000 a month and not covered by insurance. Even Contrave, which is an oral version, is nearly $300 a month in Australia. While the medical researchers and insurers sort this out, there is an affordable and safe alternative.

In the world of longevity research, one name has been making headlines in recent years: Metformin. This commonly prescribed diabetes medication is generating considerable interest for its potential role in extending not only our lifespan but also our HealthSpan – the years spent in good health and focus of our current challenge. But before we jump on the Metformin bandwagon, it’s crucial to separate fact from fiction and understand the current state of research.

Understanding Metformin

Metformin, an oral medication, has been a mainstay in the treatment of type 2 diabetes for decades. Its primary function is to lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing glucose production in the liver. However, researchers began noticing something intriguing – people with diabetes taking Metformin seemed to experience certain health benefits beyond blood sugar control. An article in Science magazine said Metformin “turns down the cell’s metabolic thermostat.” It is slowing down our biological clock. A study from Cardiff University in 2014 discovered diabetics on Metformin were outliving non-diabetic people by 15%!

Metformin is not without side-effects but appears to have an upside that cannot be ignored.

The Promise of Metformin in Longevity:

Several studies suggest that Metformin may have the potential to promote longevity. Here are some key findings:

  • Reduced Risk of Age-Related Diseases: Metformin has been associated with a decreased risk of conditions like heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases – all of which become more prevalent with age.
  • Metabolic Health: It enhances insulin sensitivity, lowers inflammation, and promotes better metabolic health, all of which are crucial factors in the aging process.
  • Cellular Aging: Some research suggests that Metformin may slow down the aging process at the cellular level, facilitating better cellular repair and maintenance.
  • Weight Management: Metformin may aid in weight management by promoting fat loss and reducing appetite.
  • Human Trials: Clinical trials in humans have shown promising results regarding healthspan extension.

The Need for Caution:

While these findings are exciting, it’s essential to approach the idea of using Metformin for longevity with caution:

  • Safety Concerns: Long-term use of Metformin is associated with potential side effects, including gastrointestinal discomfort and vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Scientific Rigor: Many of the studies on Metformin and longevity are still in their early stages, and more extensive research is needed for definitive conclusions.
  • Medical Supervision: If you are considering Metformin for longevity purposes, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional who can assess your individual health and provide guidance.

Regardless, it is important to know your blood results for HbA1c, which is a measure of glucose in the bloodstream. The cut-off point for diabetes is 6.5. Pre-diabetes would be 5.7 – 6.4%.

Metformin’s potential as a longevity drug is an exciting avenue of research that holds promise for the future. It is affordable and accessible. I am approaching this topic with cautious optimism. Please check with your healthcare provider before considering any new medication or intervention for the purpose of longevity or weight loss.

Stay informed, stay curious, and keep an eye on the evolving field of longevity research for more exciting updates in the future.