Metformin (Glucophage) is a medication prescribed for treatment of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as non-insulin dependent diabetes. It is prudent to remember that metformin is licensed to treat diabetes Type 2. It is also important to keep in mind that metformin also has potential side effects as well as any benefits. However, In addition to helping diabetes by lowering blood sugar, metformin might have other additional health benefits. One of the ways that we know that Metformin reduces blood sugars is by measuring it in the blood.
Decreasing hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels. The evaluation of looking at this effect is used to test blood sugar levels. The studies indicated that taking metformin has an overall effect of reducing blood sugar in people over a long term basis, such as is important in the control of Type 2 diabetes. Because hemoglobin (HbA1c) is used as a testing measure for blood sugar levels, researchers were able to look at HbA1c to determine the levels of blood sugar a person has. In normal people who do not have diabetes their HbA1c levels are usually less than 6%. In one study, people who took metformin experienced a decrease of their HbA1c levels by 1.4%. Among people who did not take the metformin, those people had a gain of their HbA1c by 0.4%.
In a different study it was soundly demonstrated that the higher the levels of HbA1c a person has, the more likely they are to show problems associated with long-term diabetes. These problems include: diabetic neuropathy (circulation and nerve problems caused by diabetes), diabetic retinopathy (eye problems caused by diabetes), and diabetic nephropathy (kidney problems caused by diabetes), and heart disease.
The other implications of this research are that by taking metformin, it could be possible to greatly decrease one’s chances of developing these long term problems associated with diabetes.
Additional Possible Benefits of Taking Metformin
Lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (also called bad cholesterol).In yet other studies, taking metformin was shown to have a positive effect on levels of cholesterol. The effect was one of decreasing one’s total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol).
Helping with weight loss–metformin might help people to lose weight. In most studies of metformin, people on metformin lost weight (somewhere between 1.4 to 8.4 pounds). However, people who were not taking the medicine also lost weight.The differences between the two groups were not significant. Raising HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”)—metformin was shown in a study to slightly increase HDL cholesterol. Decreasing the rate of miscarriages in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Among these women in a study, metformin was shown to reduce the overall rate of miscarriage. Increasing fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Also among this group of women a findingof increased fertility rates was observed, after taking metformin.
Reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. It was discovered that people who took metformin had significant reductions in their fasting blood sugar levels by up to 53 mg/dl. People who did not take the metformin had an opposite effect—their fasting blood sugar levels went up.
Recent research implications
Recent research studies show some other potential future benefits of taking metformin. When looking at such effects it is prudent to realize that metformin has not yet been approved for these syndromes.
Cancer prevention among diabetics. Of great significance in the more recent research, researchers found that among diabetics, those who were taking metformin had a significantly less chance of developing any kinds of cancer or to die from cancer than diabetics who were not taking metformin.
Another recent study showed that among women taking metformin there was an effect of loweringthe incidence of breast cancer. In fact, as of early 2011 there have been recent studies in various journals showing that metformin is being usedin breast cancer studies. You can read about some of this cutting edge research here. Dr. James Watson himself a Nobel Prize winner (famous for his codiscovery of DNA) has been taking metformin to treat his own cancer.