6 years of research conducted in the Sydney Memory and Aging Study, where 1,037 Australians aged approximately 70 to 90 years at the start of the study, has revealed a new effect of metformin. But what is it about? How affects? The answer to these and more questions below.
This research indicates that people with type 2 diabetes who used it experienced slower cognitive decline with lower rates of dementia than those who did not use the drug.
What is metformin?
Metformin is one of the drugs most commonly prescribed worldwide, this is also a first – line treatment for most cases of type 2 diabetes and millions of people use it to optimize their blood glucose levels.
The metformin has been used safely to treat type 2 diabetes for 60 years. It works by reducing the amount of glucose released from the liver into the bloodstream and enables the body’s cells to better respond to blood glucose levels.
These findings offer new hope for a means of reducing the risk of dementia in people with type 2 diabetes and, potentially, in people without diabetes, who number nearly 47 million people worldwide.
The study was led by researchers from the Garvan Institute for Medical Research and the Center for Healthy Brain Aging (CHeBA), UNSW Sydney.
We have revealed the promising new potential of a safe and widely used drug that could change the lives of patients at risk of dementia and their families ”says first author Professor Katherine Samaras, research topic leader on healthy aging at the Garvan Institute and an endocrinologist at St Vincent Hospital in Sydney.
For those with type 2 diabetes, metformin may add something more to the standard glucose lowering in diabetes care – a benefit for cognitive health, “he highlights.
As they age, people living with type 2 diabetes have a staggering 60% risk of developing dementia, a devastating condition that affects thinking, behavior, the ability to perform daily tasks, and the ability to maintain independence. This has an immense personal, family, economic and social impact, “says Professor Samaras.
Researchers in this study studied data from participants in CHeBA’s Sydney Aging and Memory Study. In this cohort, 123 study participants had type 2 diabetes and 67 received metformin to lower blood sugar levels.
The researchers tested cognitive function every two years, using detailed assessments that measured cognition in a range of abilities, including memory, executive function, attention and speed, and language.
The findings revealed that people with type 2 diabetes taking metformin had significantly slower cognitive decline and a lower risk of dementia compared to those not taking metformin.
Surprisingly, in those with type 2 diabetes who took metformin, there was no difference in the rate of decline in cognitive function over 6 years compared to those without diabetes.
This study has provided promising initial evidence that metformin may protect against cognitive decline. While type 2 diabetes is believed to increase the risk of dementia by promoting degenerative pathways in the brain and nerves, these pathways also occur in other people at risk for dementia, and insulin resistance may be the mediator, ” Samaras points out.
To establish a definitive effect, we are now planning a large randomized controlled trial of metformin in people at risk of dementia and assessing their cognitive function over three years. This may translate into us being able to repurpose this cheap drug with a strong safety profile to help prevent cognitive decline in older people. “
For his part, Professor Perminder Sachdev, lead author of the study and co-director of CHeBA, points out that, although an observational study does not provide conclusive ‘proof’ that metformin protects against dementia, it does encourage us to study this and others antidiabetic treatments for the prevention of dementia.
Metformin has even been suggested to be anti-aging. The intriguing question is whether metformin is helpful in people with normal glucose metabolism is questioned. Clearly more research is needed.