Taking metformin for type 2 diabetes as directed by your health care provider is linked to a lower risk of developing dementia (advanced cognitive impairment), according to a new study published in the journal Endocrine Practice.
People with diabetes are known to be at higher risk for cognitive decline and dementia — but this risk appears to be related to blood glucose control, along with other lifestyle factors. A higher daily step count and brisk walking have been linked to a lower risk for dementia, while consuming inflammatory foods is linked to a higher dementia risk. Studies have also shown that which specific diabetes drugs you take may affect your risk for dementia.
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For the latest study, researchers were interested in the relationship between taking metformin as prescribed and developing either Parkinson’s disease (a progressive neurological disorder) or dementia. To do this, they looked at data from 62,768 adults with type 2 diabetes as part of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database. To be included in the study, participants had to be prescribed more than one glucose-lowering drug, one of which was metformin. They also had to not have severe diabetes complications or a poor track record of filling all of their prescription drugs.
But there was an important difference between one half of participants and the other half — one group kept filling prescriptions for metformin throughout the first year of being prescribed the drug, while the other group stopped filling prescriptions for metformin but not for other type 2 diabetes drugs. The two groups consisted of 34,384 matched pairs of participants, meaning that they had similar characteristics aside from the difference in filling metformin prescriptions.
Continued metformin use linked to decreased risk of dementia
During an average of five years of follow-up, the researchers found that participants who continued taking metformin were 28% less likely to develop dementia than those who stopped filling metformin prescriptions. They were only 3% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, though — not a significant difference, meaning that it could have been due to chance alone. When the researchers looked at the participants in greater detail, they found that the lower dementia risk linked to continuing on metformin was seen in both males and females, those older than 65 years old and younger participants, and those who did or didn’t take insulin.
The researchers concluded that taking metformin may help protect against dementia in people with type 2 diabetes, potentially independently of its direct effect on blood glucose control. More studies are needed, though, to confirm that metformin helps protect against dementia to a greater degree than glucose-lowering drugs in general.
Want to learn more about metformin? Read “What to Know About Metformin,” “Diabetes Medicine: Metformin,” and “Metformin: The Unauthorized Biography.”
Want to learn more about maintaining cognitive health with diabetes? Read “Nine Tips to Keep Your Memory With Diabetes,” “Keeping Your Brain Strong With Diabetes” and “Memory Fitness: How to Get It, How to Keep It.”
Living with type 2 diabetes? Check out our free type 2 e-course!