African-Americans in the Veterans Affairs health system who were older than 50 and treated with metformin had a much lower dementia risk than similar patients taking a class of diabetes drugs known as sulfonylureas, according to new research in the Annals of Family Medicine. Metformin is one of the most commonly used diabetes treatments, with more than 120 million people being prescribed the medicine worldwide.
African-Americans are more likely to experience cognitive issues from type 2 diabetes than white patients. To evaluate the effects of metformin on dementia among African-Americans, researchers looked at medical records from 73,761 patients, 10,559 of whom were African-American.
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After accounting for variables that could affect dementia risk, the researchers found that among all patients, compared to taking sulfonlyureas, using metformin was linked with a significantly lower risk for dementia in African-Americans, but not in whites. In those 65–74, metformin use was associated with significantly lower dementia risk in both races.
“Providers may want to start metformin earlier for patients with type 2 diabetes who are less than 75 years of age,” noted study author Jeffrey F. Scherrer, PhD, in an interview with Healio Primary Care. “This does not mean patients should receive metformin if they are diabetes-free, but it is possible that metformin in prediabetes and immediate starts of the medication in nearly-diagnosed diabetes might result in reducing risk for dementia in African-Americans.”
Senior Digital Editor for DiabetesSelfManagement.com, Fennell has 16 years’ experience specializing in diabetes and related health conditions. Based in New York City, she has a degree from Columbia University.