Metformin and Chronic Illness: A Life Extension Fan Letter

I’ve been a huge fan of Life Extension for many years.  I guess that their bad attitude appeals to me.  I am, after all, often pretty cranky myself about traditional modern medicine…in case you hadn’t noticed.  And yeah, I kinda do have a V for Vendetta “Disobey” sign hanging in my office…  🙂


For many, many years, Life Extension has been a HUGE proponent of the drug, metformin.  I just looked up the year (2010) of one of their articles[i], “The Drug Virtually Everyone Should Ask Their Doctor About,” which was my first introduction to metformin – and which I never forgot as it made a huge impression on me.  “With each passing year, fresh scientific evidence emerges to vindicate Life Extension’s contention that ageing humans can drive enormous benefit from an antidiabetic drug called metformin.”  It was the following 3 sentences that stuck with me most the last 7 years:

“Given the lethal side effects posed by so many FDA-approved medications, avoiding them whenever possible makes sense.  Metformin is an exception!  Its broad-spectrum anti-aging properties make it a drug that most longevity enthusiasts should seriously consider asking their doctors about.”

Yeah, well, rock on with your bad self, Life Extension, because in just the last week alone I’ve read 2 more articles that even more strongly validate their long-standing support of metformin.  (And by the way, yes, I do take it myself now.)

I should mention first, before telling you about the latest research, that back in 2015, I read an article [ii] in The Telegraph about the FDA’s approval of a study on metformin’s ability to extend life.  That it can has already been demonstrated in animals[iii]:

“Our model reveals a level of chronic metformin exposure that lengthens lifespan and also attenuates the deleterious effects of aging in male mice. The effects of metformin resembled to some extent the effects of caloric restriction, even though food intake was increased….Adaptation to metformin occurs, and is associated with benefits, including reduced oxidative stress and increased antioxidant defenses, leading to lower oxidative damage accumulation and inhibition of chronic inflammation.”

The Telegraph article briefly mentions some of the previous research on metformin on animals and also, on diabetic humans:

“When Belgian researchers tested metformin on the tiny roundworm C.elegans the worms not only aged slower, but they also stayed healthier longer. They did not slow down or develop wrinkles. Mice treated with metformin increased their lifespan by nearly 40 per cent and their bones were also stronger. Last year Cardiff University found that when patients with diabetes were given the drug metformin they in fact lived longer than others without the condition, even though they should have died eight years earlier on average.”

This study on metformin in human ageing, which I believe is happening right now, is taking place in several research centers, and is studying the effects on the health and longevity of about 3000 people between 70 and 80 years old.  I am very much looking forward to seeing the results.

Just this month too, even more articles have been published supporting the use of metformin in breast cancer, prostate cancer, preventing the recurrence of bladder cancer…and more.  Life Extension has been pointing this all out over and over again, for years, as I mentioned, and thus, my metformin antenna has been raised high since 2010.

Back to this week…

You can imagine then my jaw hitting the floor (probably literally) when I spotted this article:  “Diabetes Drug May Help Symptoms of Autism Associated Condition.”[iv]  Scientists have found that in animals, the drug improves sociability and symptomatic behaviors in adult mice with a form of Fragile X syndrome.  This genetic issue leads to excess protein production in the brain which causes the breakdown in the connections of brain cells and autism symptoms.  After 10 days on metformin, the protein production in the brains of the mice had returned to normal, “…brain connections were repaired and they displayed normal behavior patterns….The therapy also reduced the occurrence of seizures…”

Well…holy cow.

By the way, yes, the researchers are intending to look into whether the drug “…offers any benefits for other types of autism.”

I’m sure you’re now wondering by now why I’ve brought all this up on a blog about the human biome…well…

Just when I think metformin can’t get any better – or Life Extension can’t get any more prophetic – this morning, I see this article:  “Diabetes drug may work by changing gut bacteria makeup.”

Well…holy cow, again.

To sum up this research: it looks like one of the ways metformin controls blood sugar is not just through preventing the liver from producing glucose, but also boosting levels of beneficial bacteria (Akkermansia and Bifidobacterium) in the gut.  40 volunteers, newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, were given metformin or a placebo and put on a low calorie diet, for 4 months.  During the study period, stool samples were taken and those on metformin had much more dramatic changes.  The researchers then took the stool from 3 of these people before and after they had the metformin and transplanted it into mice that were on a high-fat diet (used to mimic human Type 2 diabetes).  The feces from the metformin-treated people improved glucose tolerance in the mice.  The feces from those people before taking metformin had no effect.  “Taken together, the results suggest that metformin at least partly works by encouraging the growth of gut bacteria such as Akkermansia, which can influence blood sugar levels.”

I’ll bet you anything that Life Extension is all over this metformin/gut bacteria thing like white on rice.  And I can also tell you that I will be all over this metformin/autism thing like even whiter on rice.  Stay tuned.




[iii] Marint-Montalvo, A, et. al.  Metformin improves healthspan and lifespan in mice. Nature Communications. 2013;3:2192.


8 Comments on “Metformin and Chronic Illness: A Life Extension Fan Letter

  1. This is interesting. As a longevity enthusiast, I’ve definitely thought about trying metformin (even though I’m a non-diabetic). What’s stopping me from allowing myself to become a guinea pig for it is some research indicating metformin may affect hormonal balance and vitamin B12 absorption. Any thoughts on that?

  2. Hi Chika,
    No, I wasn’t familiar with the B12 connection so I had a look. I see that long term use may be associated with B12 deficiency. That’s certainly easily treated. What kind of hormonal imbalances have you read about so I know what to look up? BTW, I am certainly not recommending anything here – just reporting on anything I find (and I hope you find) interesting! Thank you so much for writing, and for teaching me something new!

    • Yeah that’s true. I only read about testosterone imbalance, but I think that’s actually rare. Cool page, by the way!

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