Metformin – Is it Really the Fountain of Youth?

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    Medical experts are starting to suspect that metformin could be the next "fountain of youth” but at what cost?

    You may have heard people talking about a drug called metformin lately. Those in the nerdiest spheres of the scientific and medical community have been fascinated by recent revelations in metformin research. In fact, the last time medical experts were this excited about a drug was around the time Viagra came out!

    But metformin isn’t an erectile dysfunction medication. It does much more than that. Some experts are even calling it the fountain of youth in a pill – but how legitimate are these claims? And is it all sunshine and roses, or is there a dark side to metformin that you need to know about?

    What Is Metformin?

    Metformin isn’t a theoretical drug or a prohibitively expensive substance which only the wealthiest-of-the-wealthy have access to – it’s a generic, run-of-the-mill diabetes drug (type 2) which costs pennies per dose. Some doctors prescribe it as a preventative intervention in people with prediabetes symptoms. Others may wait to prescribe metformin until after they can make an official type 2 diabetes diagnosis. It is strongly recommended to combine metformin with healthier diet and lifestyle choices instead of relying on the drug to lower your blood sugar by itself.

    Metformin helps treat diabetic and pre-diabetic symptoms in the following ways:

    • It decreases how much glucose your liver makes on its own
    • It decreases how much glucose your digestive system absorbs from the food you eat
    • It increases your insulin sensitivity

    Basically, metformin does the exact opposite of everything Type 2 diabetes does to your body. And since the health consequences of being a type 2 diabetic can be summed up as rapid onset premature aging, some have gone as far as to call metformin “aging – in reverse”.

    Why Is Metformin Getting So Much Attention Right Now?

    Metformin isn’t in the spotlight just because of what it can do. It is also the subject of a groundbreaking, brand new, FDA-approved clinical trial which specifically targets aging as a disease and will attempt to test various drugs (metformin especially) for anti-aging therapeutic potential.

    This trial, known as the TAME study (short for Targeting Aging With Metformin) is the first of its kind. Until this study was green lit, the FDA had never even considered classifying aging as a legitimate disease – but now they’re starting to change their tune.

    According to our current collective of medical knowledge, metformin’s anti-ageing potential stems from the fact that:

    • It increases autophagy
    • It has beneficial epigenetic effects (it “turns good genes on”)
    • It mimics the healthful effects of exercise on a cellular level
    • It helps mitochondria become more efficient at producing energy by reducing oxidative stress
    • It almost sounds too good to be true. For the average person suffering from elevated blood sugar or premature aging, it could very well be the fountain of youth. But not everyone can safely take metformin. It turns out that there’s a reason that this medication is available by prescription only.

    The Many Downsides of Taking Metformin

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    Taking Metformin Isn’T Without Risk. Could The Anti-Aging Benefits Be Worth The Side Effects?

    Documented Side effects of metformin in diabetes patients include:

    • Nausea
    • Gastric distress (gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea)
    • Lactic acidosis (a potentially fatal buildup of lactic acid in the blood)
    • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
    • Headaches
    • Anemia
    • “Faux Low” blood sugar symptoms
    • Weight loss
    • Loss of appetite
    • Insomnia
    • More frequent or more intense nightmares
    • Sleepwalking

    So far, we only know what metformin does in people who are either type 2 diabetic or pre-diabetic. We don’t have very much data on what metformin does in healthy individuals who don’t have problems with high blood sugar or insulin insensitivity. This lack of knowledge is what makes metformin so potentially dangerous – and why trials are necessary to clear its name.

    Upon further review of the literature, it seems as though many of the side effects above are closely related to diet and exercise. The gastric distress that many people experience, for example, could be dependent on diet rather than tolerability. People who continued eating a high-carbohydrate diet while taking metformin reported some of the highest levels of GI distress. So it’s important to keep that in mind if your doctor has recently prescribed you metformin.

    It seems as though metformin has a lot of potential as an anti-aging miracle drug – but its efficacy may be limited to people whose ageing problems stem from a metabolic disorder. Your perfectly healthy average Jane or Joe could suffer some really nasty side effects by taking metformin for anti-aging purposes only. Until more studies come out, it’s best to listen to your doctor’s advice and stay away from any prescription medicine unless your physician deems it to be worth the risk.