Adults with diabetes have been successfully using the drug metformin to lower blood sugar for many years. But is it suitable for use in children? According to a new study from scientists at the University of Adelaide in Australia, it just might be.
The researchers studied 90 children ranging in age from 8–18 who had Type 1 diabetes. They randomly assigned them to one of two groups. For 12 months the first group was given metformin (up to 1 gram twice a day), and the second group received a placebo (an inert substance). The children had an above-average body-mass index (a measure of weight in relation to height).
After the year was up, the children were tested by a procedure called glyceryl trinitrate‐mediated vascular dilation, which is used to assess the health of the blood vessels. The researchers used the test because children with Type 1 diabetes often have impaired vascular function. The results showed that this measure had improved in the metformin group by 3.3. percentage points, which the researchers considered significant. The children were also given an HbA1c test, which measures the average level of blood glucose over the previous 2–3 months, and the researchers determined that the metformin group had lower sugar levels than the placebo group. Finally, the results showed that total insulin dose fell by an average of 0.2 units per day among the metformin group. The researchers did note, however, that the children in the metformin group experienced more gastrointestinal side effects. Whether or not the children had entered puberty did not affect the results.
The researchers were not quite ready to recommend metformin for all children with diabetes, saying that the results of their study “warrant further consideration of its use,” but they did note that metformin’s “combination of improved metabolic control and a lower insulin dose requirement is particularly relevant” to children with Type 1 diabetes.