I have long recommended the drug metformin for type 2 diabetes and managing blood sugar. But it turns out this surprising drug can do much more. Metformin can reduce the risk of developing other chronic illnesses like cancer1 and cardiovascular disease2, and may also help improve memory.3
Even more amazingly, researchers have recently found that this multitasking drug may actually be able to extend your life. 4
It’s rare for me to agree with mainstream medicine that a commonly used drug is really safe and effective, let alone the preferred treatment for any type of medical condition. But when I uncovered the well-buried history of metformin, it was a lot less surprising.
As I revealed in the December 2012 issue of Insiders’ Cures, metformin is actually derived from an ancient herbal remedy known as French lilac, or goat’s rue. Herbal historians have traced French lilac-based treatments as far back as ancient Greece, Rome, and medieval Europe, where they were used for people with sweet-tasting urine (a hallmark of excess blood sugar).
In the 1950s, the first French lilac–based diabetes drug was launched in Europe. It migrated to the U.S. in the 1970s under the name glucophage. Now known as metformin, this herb-based treatment is thought to be the most prescribed diabetes drug in the world. It is the only drug that manages blood sugar while also preventing the circulatory complications of diabetes.
So how does this simple herb-based drug actually help you live longer?
The mechanics of aging
Researchers believe metformin’s longevity effect is due to a cellular process called hormesis.
In simple terms, hormesis shows that a small to moderate amount of a “bad” thing can actually have positive effects on health and longevity.
In metformin’s case, that “bad” thing is reactive oxygen species (ROS)—otherwise known as oxidants or free radicals. Scientists recently discovered that through a complex process, metformin increases ROS.4 The body’s natural antioxidants neutralize the harmful effects of these ROS. But before that happens, the extra ROS trigger protective defenses in the body that help extend lifespan.
This discovery confirms what I’ve always maintained—that the pop-science antioxidant theory is not so simple. Mainstream Johnny-come-latelys and natural know-it-alls like to throw around the term antioxidant like some kind of magic incantation, without the slightest idea of what it means biologically or chemically.
In reality, body chemistry is much more complicated than just “oxidants are bad” and “antioxidants are good”—as scientists have learned with metformin.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if these scientists have actually discovered the all-important mechanism of true antiaging? All from a simple, time-tested drug, which is really an ancient herbal remedy.
Don’t forget! Metformin’s one negative side effect—and how to avoid it
It’s important to note that taking Metformin causes your body to absorb fewer B vitamins. So if you use Metformin, you must also take a good B-complex vitamin supplement—as I recommend to everyone.
1Wu JW, et al. Commonly used diabetes and cardiovascular medications and cancer recurrence and cancer-specific mortality: a review of the literature.
Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2014 Aug;13(8):1071-99. doi: 10.1517/14740338.2014.926887. Epub 2014 Jul 5.
2Norwood DK, et al. Evaluating the potential benefits of metformin in patients with cardiovascular disease and heart failure. Consult Pharm. 2013 Sep;28(9):579-83. doi: 10.4140/TCP.n.2013.579.
3 Wang J, et al. Metformin activates an atypical PKC-CBP pathway to promote neurogenesis and enhance spatial memory formation. Cell Stem Cell. 2012 Jul 6;11(1):23-35. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2012.03.016.
4Darzynkiewicz Z, et al. In search of antiaging modalities: evaluation of mTOR- and ROS/DNA damage-signaling by cytometry. Cytometry A. 2014 May;85(5):386-99. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22452. Epub 2014 Feb 22.