Diabetes drug to slow aging?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Metformin is the most widely prescribed drug in the world to treat Type 2 diabetes, and it’s been around for more than 60 years! But now, researchers are learning this popular medicine might also have other health benefits.

More than 150 million people worldwide take a little pill to treat Type 2 diabetes.

“The most commonly used medication, which is pretty much, it’s probably in the water here, is metformin – everybody knows about it,” said Karen Elkind-Hirsch, director of Scientific Research at Women’s Hospital, Baton Rouge.

A large review of 53 different studies concluded that metformin reduces all causes of death like cancer, heart disease and stroke, in addition to its effect on diabetes. Experts believe metformin also has anti-inflammatory effects, which may contribute to its ability to slow aging.

“Our diabetes incidence is skyrocketing and so is the health costs,” Elkind-Hirsch said.

Research has also suggested the medicine may prevent Type 2 diabetes. In one large study, people without diabetes who took metformin reduced their risk of developing the disease by 30%.

“Many are on it even during pregnancy because it’s a very safe drug,” Elkind-Hirsch said.

What’s more: metformin is inexpensive -- costing just pennies a day, but it does sometimes cause nausea, diarrhea, flatulence and stomachache. Taking metformin for a long time can also lead to a vitamin B deficiency. For most patients, these symptoms are mild, and for some, the potential anti-aging benefits might be worth it.

Use of metformin can also trigger moderate weight loss. On average, most people lose about six pounds after being on metformin for a year.