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Is Metformin A Wonder Drug?

One of the fastest growing, non-traditional medicine clinics are the “Anti-Aging/Longevity” practices.  Given the high number of Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers, the quest to find the “Fountain Of Youth” has never been hire.  People are shelling out LOTS of $$$ on these anti-aging clinics as well as the products that these clinics sell to them.

One of the major prescription medications being used by many “Anti-Aging” doctors is Metformin.  This has traditionally been used to treat patients with diabetes mellitus, but more recently, Metformin has been touted to be instrumental in preventing other diseases as well as delaying the aging process.

First, a quick background of Metformin:  The history of Metformin goes back hundreds of years. In Europe, the medicinal herb Galega officinalis was popular for digestive health and to treat urinary problems and other ailments. Then in 1918, a scientist discovered that one of its ingredients, guanidine, could lower blood sugar. Medicines containing guanidine, such as metformin and phenformin, were developed to treat diabetes. But they fell out of favor due to serious side effects caused by phenformin, and by the discovery of insulin.  However, Metformin was found to be much safer than phenformin and the FDA approved its use for diabetes in 1995.

Side effects of Metformin are mostly GI related: Nausea, diarrhea, Bloating, abdominal pain.  Rarely, it can cause a potentially fatal disease called lactic acidosis

Some studies suggest that Metformin can also be of help in:

  • Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Lower the risk of certain cancers (breast, colon, prostate)
  • Reducing the risk of stroke 
  • Reducing the risk of dementia
  • Slows general aging

Before placing everyone on Metformin, more studies are needed that prove the non-diabetic benefits of this medication.  My 40-plus years in medicine have shown me that the concept of a “Wonder Drug” is often exaggerated.  Metformin in no exception.

There are no songs about Metformin, but there are LOTS of songs about “Wonder”.  Here is The King singing “The Wonder Of You”.

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