• Metformin: A Historical Overview

    Galega officinalis

    Metformin, in conjunction with lifestyle changes, including eating right and exercising, is an FDA-approved treatment for type 2 diabetes. But, metformin’s ability to prevent or treat a variety of other illnesses, including aging, is gaining attention. Here we will discuss the development of metformin, its uses, and its potential as a miracle medication.

    The Origins of Metformin

    The history of metformin dates back hundreds of years to Europe, where the medicinal herb Galega officinalis was used for digestive health and to treat urinary problems and other ailments. One of its components, guanidine, was found by a scientist in 1918 to reduce blood sugar levels. As a result, medications containing guanidine were created to treat diabetes. They include metformin and phenformin.

    Unfortunately, due to its severe side effects, phenformin lost popularity, and insulin was eventually discovered. Years later, in the 1950s, metformin was rediscovered and given the green light as a treatment for diabetes in Europe. However, the Food and Drug Administration didn’t green-light its use in the US until 1995. Since then, metformin has surpassed all other diabetes medications in popularity among those whose blood sugar levels cannot be managed by diet and exercise alone.

    Benefits of Metformin

    Metformin’s benefits to people with diabetes extend beyond its ability to control blood sugar levels. They can expect improved heart health and a reduced risk of dying from heart disease as a result of doing so. It can also aid in the weight loss of people with diabetes. 

    In addition, research suggests that even those who don’t have diabetes can benefit from taking metformin. Off-label prescribing is nothing new, where the drug is used for a purpose other than what the manufacturer intended. For example, patients with prediabetes, who have raised blood sugar but are not high enough to qualify as diabetes, may benefit from taking metformin to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. In addition, women with gestational diabetes may experience increased blood sugar throughout pregnancy but whose levels return to normal after birth may also find relief from this medication. 

    Women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have had metformin prescribed for years to aid with menstrual management, fertility, and high blood sugar. Menstrual dysfunction and infertility are prominent symptoms of this condition, primarily affecting young women. 

    Finally, metformin may assist some persons taking antipsychotics in avoiding or reducing weight gain. While treating severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, potent antipsychotics are often taken, and one typical adverse effect is rapid weight gain.

    The Potential of Metformin as a Wonder Drug

    Metformin has the potential to be a wonder drug due to its ability to treat or prevent a variety of conditions, from diabetes to prediabetes to gestational diabetes and even polycystic ovary syndrome. Moreover, its cardiovascular benefits and its ability to help some people lose weight make it a valuable medication for people with or without diabetes.

    However, what makes metformin genuinely unique is its potential to treat aging. This has been the subject of extensive research, and the results have been promising. For example, a study in mice found that metformin extended their lifespan by 5.8%, which is equivalent to about seven years in humans.

    Given the increasing interest in metformin’s potential as an anti-aging drug, researchers are continuing to explore its benefits. While much more research is needed to understand its effects fully, it’s clear that metformin has the potential to be a genuinely great medication.