A commonly prescribed diabetes drug has been shown to offer surprising health benefits to even non-diabetics.
In a new study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, Cardiff University scientists found people treated with metformin — widely prescribed for Type 2 diabetes — can live longer than untreated individuals without the metabolic disorder.
The study, which involved more than 180,000 people, is the latest in a series of trials to show that metformin, used to control glucose levels in the body, can boost health by preventing a range of diseases. Past research has found the drug has potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties and may help stave off heart disease, as well as other conditions.
Lead researcher Craig Currie said the latest study compared the survival of diabetes patients prescribed metformin with those given another common diabetes drug called sulphonylurea. It also compared life expectancy among the treated individuals with non-diabetics who were matched by age, gender, same general practice, smoking status, and clinical status.
"What we found was illuminating," said Currie. "Patients treated with metformin had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared with the cohort of non-diabetics, whereas those treated with sulphonylureas had a consistently reduced survival compared with non-diabetic patients. This was true even without any clever statistical manipulation.
"Surprisingly, the findings indicate that this cheap and widely prescribed diabetic drug may have beneficial effects not only on patients with diabetes but also for people without, and interestingly, people with Type 1 diabetes. Metformin has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits. It can also reduce pre-diabetics' chances of developing the disease by a third."
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