Is An Old Diabetes Drug The New Anti-Aging Miracle?
There is so much talk about aging and what we can do to prevent its acceleration. Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around a drug call Metformin.
A lot of promising research has emerged in the world of longevity and anti-aging but according to Dr. Nir Barzilai, a scientist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, we might already have the miracle drug needed to slow the aging process, at our fingertips. Metformin is a popular diabetes drug that has been around for over 50 years, and is known for its blood-sugar lowering properties and safety. In animal studies, it's been shown to delay the aging process by multiple mechanisms. Metformin may delay the development of diseases that increase in frequency with age, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Since Metformin acts on mitochondria, our cells' energy manufacturing centres, it regulates glucose and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin to stabilize your blood sugar. It decreases inflammation by inhibiting a protein that controls DNA transcription called Nf-kB, and it acts as a potent antioxidant that reduces oxidative damage on various body tissues.
Metformin seems to do it all, in addition to anti-aging effects, it has been found to have significant cancer-fighting properties, confer protection against neurodegenerative diseases and aid in the treatment of poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an increasingly common condition seen in women with abnormal menstrual cycles.
Obesity is a risk factor in over a dozen cancers, and people with Type 2 Diabetes are more likely to be obese, and to get cancer. In 2005, the British Medical Journal published a study showing that diabetic patients who took Metformin were less likely to develop cancer than those who didn’t. Metformin lowers blood glucose levels which, in turn, decrease the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas. Cancer's main source of energy is glucose, so by lowering blood glucose levels, Metformin indirectly inhibits cancer cell growth. The drug has also been shown to affect cancer cells directly by triggering AMPK, the body's master regulator of cellular energy, resulting in an energy crisis for cancer cells that leads to cell death by nutrient deprivation. It regulates lipids, glucose and energy imbalances and produces similar benefits to exercise, dieting and weight loss.
Researchers in Taiwan found that diabetic patients on Metformin were less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Metformin has been shown to stimulate the growth of neurons in the brain, and in an animal study published in Cell Stem Cell, Metformin was found to improve problem-solving and memory storage.
Metformin is commonly used in treatment of PCOS, an ovarian syndrome responsible for irregular menstrual cycles, lack of ovulation and decreased fertility. Since insulin resistance plays a role in PCOS, Metformin has been shown to reduce circulating insulin and androgen levels, restore ovulation, reduce weight and decrease the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus.
Much like Metformin, the botanical extract, Berberine, has revealed itself to have clinical applications for a variety of metabolic syndromes that are similar in action to Metformin. Berberine is an alkaloid derived from various medicinal plants including Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal) and Coptis Chinensis (Goldthread) and has been around for over 5,000 years. In recent studies, Berberine has been found to have hypoglycemic effects similar to those of Metformin, reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as waist circumference and abnormal blood lipids and to be an alternative treatment for women suffering with PCOS. A long term health study showed that Berberine was superior to Metformin in reducing waist circumference, triglycerides and increasing HDL cholesterol in PCOS patients. In 2012, the European Journal of Endocrinology published results finding that Berberine was favorable to Metformin when used to treat women with PCOS. Similar to Metformin, Berberine has been found to play a role in activating the cell regulation protein AMPK, and reducing blood sugar levels. It also suppresses intestinal disaccharides which positively modulate gut microbes and increase gut bacteria diversity. The effects of both Berberine and Metformin are owed to the positive changes seen in the gut microbiota, particularly an improvement in microbial diversity and an increase in short-chain fatty acids, which contribute to a reduction of inflammation, insulin resistance and obesity. Studies have reported that both Berberine and Metformin can have gastrointestinal side effects in some patients that include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea but with such few side effects both substances serve to be great candidates for cardiovascular prevention, dementia and for overall healthy aging and longevity.
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