Metformin: A Pill for Longevity?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Metformin is a drug administered to diabetic patients to help them regulate unhealthy blood sugar levels.
This drug may have geroprotective (life-extending) benefits because of how it interacts with the cells in our bodies.
Another supplement, fatty15, offers cellular health and geroprotective benefits and is available without a prescription.
More than 92 million prescriptions for metformin are distributed each year in the United States. It is regarded as one of the safest drugs to treat high blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metformin is a trusted solution for helping patients regulate blood glucose levels, but can it do more?
Researchers studying longevity have long noted that patients who take metformin have had “side effects” that include reduced risk of heart attack and stroke and fewer occurrences of certain types of cancers. Could this mean that metformin has geroprotective properties?
We’ll discuss how metformin works, the history of its use, and the effects of metformin on the cells of the human body. We’ll also discuss how supporting our cellular health can help increase our longevity. First, let’s discuss how type 2 diabetes affects the body.
Type 2 Diabetes
Over 37 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is largely genetic, type 2 diabetes is developed over time. Type 2 diabetes can lower an individual’s lifespan, even if it is well treated. People with type 2 diabetes have blood sugar levels that are too high.
This happens for two reasons:
Insufficient insulin production. When we eat food, it breaks down into glucose in the bloodstream. The pancreas is signaled to release insulin, which removes glucose from the bloodstream and delivers it to cells, where it is used for energy. A person with type 2 diabetes does not produce enough insulin to keep up with the glucose in their bloodstream.
Insulin resistance. When insulin takes glucose from the bloodstream and delivers it to the cells, the cells take in the glucose to produce energy for cellular function. People with type 2 diabetes have cells that have lost their insulin sensitivity, which means that the cells no longer accept the glucose brought to them by the insulin carrier.
These two events happen over time and are usually the result of unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. Before a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, someone may live with prediabetes or hyperglycemia.
Most of the time, you won’t know you have these conditions. You’ll need a blood test from your healthcare professional to determine your blood sugar levels.
What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?
Two major factors usually precede a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes diagnosis. These are:
- Being overweight. If you are overweight (having a BMI over 25) or obese (having a BMI over 30), you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than a person who maintains a healthy weight.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle. A lack of exercise or physical movement is often another prevailing condition that precedes type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can cause you to live a shorter life and place you at higher risk for other unhealthy metabolic conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (including heart failure), and high cholesterol. Getting your blood sugar under control is essential to your health, and metformin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed to help balance blood sugar levels.
What Is Metformin?
Metformin is not a new drug. In fact, it has been around for hundreds of years. An herbal remedy called Galega officinalis was popularly used by ancients to treat problems with digestive health and urinary problems.
In 1918, a scientist discovered that one of the compounds in this herb, guanidine, could lower blood sugar. He tested it further, and it was officially approved for use in treating diabetes in Europe in the 1950s and later in the United States in 1995. Today, it is the most frequently prescribed drug for helping patients with diabetes.
What We Know It Can Do
We know that metformin can lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes who cannot regulate their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise alone. It is also sometimes prescribed “off-label” for treating prediabetes, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) caused by unregulated blood sugar levels, and weight gain from other medications.
Researchers have studied its ability to protect against cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers that people with type 2 diabetes may be susceptible to (like prostate and breast cancer) and even support weight loss and cognitive health. For these reasons, it is now being studied as a possible tool for increasing our lifespans.
While most of us think of aging as losing our stamina, feeling more tired, experiencing aching joints, or simply noticing sagging skin, the real mechanism of aging happens deep inside our cells.
Researchers have identified the causes of aging in the cells and refer to them as the twelve hallmarks of aging.
These include specific functions inside the cells that cause them to:
- Lose function
- Experience unhealthy changes in chromosomes
- Fail to reach their programmed cell death (apoptosis)
- Cause inflammation in the body
Metformin has mechanisms that protect against these negative cellular changes.
Metformin: How It Works
Metformin works by giving the cells the same benefits as fasting and caloric restriction. Fasting and caloric restriction can inhibit mTOR function.
MTOR is a protein that regulates cell functions, including some of the functions that change negatively with age. When mTOR is turned off, like when we restrict calories, cells are forced to scavenge worn-out organelles for fuel, a process called autophagy.
This helps clear away damage and reduces inflammatory responses. Metformin interacts with mTOR in this same manner and activates AMPK, which regulates some homeostatic functions.
Bottom line: Metformin can help prevent cognitive decline, help with cell autophagy, prevent some cancers, and has cardiovascular protective effects. Unfortunately, it has side effects and isn’t approved for longevity protection.
Who Should Not Use Metformin?
You shouldn’t use metformin if you have kidney disease, liver disease, have had diabetic ketoacidosis, or are over 65 with a heart attack or stroke history. You can experience adverse effects like lactic acidosis if you are taking metformin.
Certain drug interactions exist: your healthcare provider can tell you if your medications are safe for use with metformin. Metformin is currently sold under the brand namesFortamet ®, Glumetza®, and Riomet®.
Side Effects of Metformin
You might experience side effects of metformin. Most commonly, gastrointestinal discomfort like bloating, gas, and stomach pain may occur. Metformin carries a risk of lactic acidosis, which may be increased if you have certain health conditions.
You may also experience muscle pain or cramping. If you have an allergic reaction, stop taking this medication immediately. If you are taking other antidiabetic drugs, there is a risk of developing hypoglycemia, a condition in which you may experience low blood sugar.
Although metformin may have some benefits for increasing longevity, the FDA has not yet approved it for this use. Until it is further researched for its life-extending effects, there are other ways we can support our cellular health.
Fighting Back: Attacking the Hallmarks of Cellular Aging
There are three hallmarks of aging inside our cells that are directly connected to age-related illness and a shorter lifespan.
- Cellular senescence. Cellular senescence occurs when cells lose their ability to function completely but don’t die. Instead, they stay in the body, creating a toxic environment that breeds inflammation. These cells are often referred to as zombie cells.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria inside our cells power them to carry out cellular functions. When we age, the mitochondria begin to lose their ability to produce energy (ATP) and instead begin producing additional reactive oxygen species (ROS), which cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a key driver in aging.
- Improper cellular signaling. Cells need to communicate with each other so that homeostatic functions like sleep, appetite, mood, and even glucose regulation can remain balanced. When cells lose their ability to communicate, we experience negative health impacts.
Thankfully, there’s an all-natural way to support your cells, help rescue failing mitochondria, restore cellular communication, and help eliminate cells that no longer function. It’s a naturally occurring fatty acid called C15:0.
C15:0 is an essential, odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that research says can help reverse the aging process in your cells.
How C15:0 Works
C15:0 repairs and protects cells and restores their function by:
- Creating stronger cell membranes. The membranes surrounding our cells are not sturdy, and they become weaker with age. When cell membranes lose their shape, they can’t function properly. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes, improving their cellular strength by 80 percent.
- Clearing damaged cells. C15:0 helps to clear zombie cells.Cells that don’t die and no longer function create a landscape of inflammation and toxicity in the body. C15:0 helps clear these cells by activating AMPK and inhibiting mTOR, effectively clearing away damaged cells.
- Regulating inflammatory response. The body’s inflammatory response can become unbalanced and create chronic inflammation. C15:0 significantly calms and lowers proinflammatory cytokines, a molecule directly linked to aging.
- Restoring mitochondrial function. C15:0 is especially important for your mitochondria. It helps restore their energy, increasing cellular ATP levels by up to 350 percent and reducing reactive oxygen species by up to 45 percent.
- Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. Functions like mood, appetite, and sleep are all regulated by these receptors. C15:0 interacts with them to help reestablish balance in these areas. Deeper sleep? Improved mood? Appetite regulation? All possible with C15:0.
Protecting your cells is as simple as restoring your circulating levels of C15:0, and it might be easier than you think.
How To Get C15:0
Getting more C15:0 into your diet is tricky because it’s found primarily in whole dairy foods. No one starts a healthy diet and weight loss plan by saying they want to increase their full-fat butter and whole milk levels.
Studies looking at increasing intake of full fat dairy products have been inconsistent, some link these types of dietary increases with negative health impacts and some with positive health benefits.
Further, full fat dairy products generally come from animal sources and include a significant number of calories. Therefore, there are many benefits of supplementation with C15:0, rather than increasing your levels through diet alone.
The solution? Fatty15.
Fatty15: The C15:0 Supplement Your Cells Need
Leave the cows, calories, and added sugar (lactose) behind. Instead, reach for the supplement supported by a large body of peer-reviewed science, containing just one ingredient: the pure, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning version of C15:0 called FA15TM. Taking one daily 100mg capsule can protect your cells and give you the geroprotective benefits you want.
Time To Get Fatty
Maybe one day, we’ll be able to use drugs like metformin to increase our lifespan, but for now, we’ll have to wait for science to progress. In the meantime, we already have a way of biohacking cellular aging. Fatty15 helps you protect your cells naturally.
Broader and safer clinically-relevant activities of pentadecanoic acid compared to omega-3: Evaluation of an emerging essential fatty acid across twelve primary human cell-based disease systems | PLOS ONE
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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