Diabetes Medicine Metformin Improves Gut Bacteria

The oral diabetes medicine metformin appears to cause positive changes in the way gut bacteria function, according to a new study out of Denmark. Metformin is the most commonly prescribed diabetes medicine in the world, with over 61 million prescriptions filled in the United States alone in 2012.

Recent research has indicated a link between various health conditions and changes in the makeup and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of roughly 100 trillion organisms living in the human gut). However, these studies did not check for the possible impact of medicines being used to treat the conditions on the gut bacteria. To evaluate the effects of metformin versus the effects of Type 2 diabetes on the microbiome, researchers looked at the intestinal population of 784 people with and without Type 2 diabetes from Denmark, Sweden, and China.

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The investigators found that the medicine favorably changed the way the gut bacteria functioned, increasing their ability to create healthful short-chain fatty acids that, in turn, can lower blood sugar levels in a variety of ways. They also discovered that those taking metformin had more coliform bacteria in their intestinal tracts, which may possibly explain the gastrointestinal side effects experienced by some people taking metformin.

“We weren’t able to show that other types of antidiabetic drugs had any actual impact on the gut microbiotia, noted senior study author Oluf Borbye Pedersen, MD, DMSc. “When studying Type 2 diabetes patients not being treated with metformin, we did, however, discover that they — irrespective of whether they were from Denmark, China, or Sweden — had fewer of the bacteria which produce the health-promoting short-chain fatty acids.”

Current research is under way to determine whether lacking certain combinations of fatty-acid producing bacteria is a factor that contributes to the development of Type 2 diabetes, Borbye Pedersen added.

For more information, read the article “Diabetes Drug Improves Gut Bacteria, Study Finds” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Nature. And for more information about metformin, see the article “Metformin: The Unauthorized Biography,” by diabetes educator Wil Dubois.

If you are a college student with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you may be interested in completing a brief survey by researchers at Sam Houston University. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.

  • spatin

    When the VA put me on Metformin, it made some changes in the gut, but I would hardly call it positive changes. I had the worst case of diarrhea I ever had and it didn’t stop until I quit taking the Metformin and used something else.

    • Donald Benedict

      same here it tore me up!

    • Roberto

      What did you use other than metformin

  • monnim

    what about the kidney failure it puts people into

  • Donald Benedict

    Metformin did not like me one bit! In order for me to take metformin I would have to eat my dinner or anything in the bathroom!

    • Christie Christie

      LOL, but sooo true.