Healthy Lifestyle

Cheap, decades-old drug could be secret to longevity: scientists

A cheap drug used to treat diabetes may help you live a longer, healthier life, scientists believe. 

Metformin, which helps people lower their blood sugar and treats Type 2 diabetes, could also protect against cancer, cognitive decline and heart disease. This is due to its anti-inflammatory effects, NPR reported. It costs less than a dollar a day under some insurance plans.

Scientists are testing their hypothesis with a study called the TAME Trial to see whether metformin can slow down aging and prevent disease in older healthy adults. The six-year trial aims to enroll 3,000 people between the ages of 65 and 79.

Connecticut’s West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor and her attorney husband, Michael Cantor, both take metformin and credit the drug with improving their lifestyle. They are both in their mid-60s. 

Michael started taking the drug 10 years ago to help him manage his weight and his blood sugar, and Shari started taking it over the pandemic because she heard it could prevent infections.

“I tell all my friends about it. We all want to live a little longer, high-quality life if we can,” Michael told NPR.

A researcher on aging also weighed in. 

“I don’t know if metformin increases lifespan in people, but the evidence that exists suggests that it very well might,” said Steven Austad, a senior scientific adviser at the American Federation for Aging Research who studies the biology of aging.

Studies suggest that metformin lowers the risk of blood, urologic and gastrointestinal cancers. 

“That was a bit of a shock,” Austad said.

He also referred to a British study that found that the drug lowered dementia risk in people who took the med for Type 2 diabetes. People taking metformin also had a lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular issue. 

Austad and other researchers pushed for a clinical trial because most metformin aging benefits have been observational. 

“A bunch of us went to the FDA to ask them to approve a trial for metformin. If you could help prevent multiple problems at the same time like we think metformin may do, then that’s almost the ultimate in preventative medicine,” Austad said.

The Cantors say they haven’t experienced any negative side effects, although some metformin users have reported trouble building new muscle and a vitamin B deficiency.

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