Can Metformin Extend Life?

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Can Diabetes Drug Metformin Increase Number of Healthy Years, Extend Life?

The oral medicine metformin may be able to slow aging, increasing the number of healthy years a person can live and potentially expanding human lifespan to 120, according to the premise of a new study recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and set begin in the United States next winter. Metformin is the most widely prescribed diabetes drug in the world, with over 61 million prescriptions filled in 2012 in the U.S. alone.

Previous research in worms has indicated that metformin may slow the aging process by mimicking the effects of a low-calorie diet. And a study from Cardiff University found that people with diabetes who were taking the medicine lived longer than those without the condition who were not taking metformin. The drug’s anti-aging properties appear, at least in part, to be due to its effect of increasing the amount of oxygen that is released into cells.

To further evaluate whether the medicine can lengthen lifespan and reduce disease in humans, researchers from various institutions in the United States are currently recruiting 3,000 people who are 70 to 80 years old and who have or are at risk of developing cancer, heart disease, or dementia. The trial, which is known as the Targeting Aging With Metformin (TAME) study, is expected to last from five to seven years.

“If you target the aging process and slow down aging, then you slow down all the disease and pathology of aging as well,” notes study advisor and aging expert Gordon Lithgow, PhD. “I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been thought inconceivable. But there is every reason to believe it’s possible,” he added.

For more information, read the articles “World’s first anti-ageing drug could see humans live to 120” and “Scientists’ New Goal: Growing Old Without Disease,” or watch this recent interview with TAME Study researcher Nir Barzilai, MD, on BBC World News. And to learn more about metformin, see “Metformin: The Unauthorized Biography,” by diabetes educator Wil Duois, BS, AAS, CPT, TPT.

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