This common diabetes drug may help reduce cognitive decline, dementia risk

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Metformin is the first-line treatment for most cases of type 2 diabetes and one of the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide, with millions of individuals using it to optimize their blood glucose levels.

It works by reducing the amount of glucose released from the liver into the bloodstream and allows the body’s cells to better respond to blood glucose levels.

Studies over the last decade have revealed evidence of metformin’s benefit in cancer, heart disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, and weight management.

In a new study, researchers have found an additional health benefit: people with type 2 diabetes who used metformin experienced a slower cognitive decline with lower dementia rates than those who did not use the medication.

The findings provide new hope for a way to reduce the risk of dementia in individuals with type 2 diabetes, and potentially those without diabetes who number nearly 47 million people worldwide.

The research was conducted by a team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and elsewhere.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can no longer produce enough insulin to meet its needs, leaving affected individuals unable to maintain blood glucose levels within a normal range.

This can lead to long-term health complications, including cognitive decline.

As they age, people living with type 2 diabetes have a staggering 60% risk of developing dementia, a devastating condition that impacts thinking, behavior, the ability to perform everyday tasks, and the ability to maintain independence.

This has an immense personal, family, economic and societal impacts.

In the study, the team analyzed data from participants of CHeBA’s Sydney Memory and Ageing Study.

In this cohort, 123 study participants had type 2 diabetes, and 67 received metformin to lower blood sugar levels.

The researchers tested cognitive function every two years, using detailed assessments that measured cognition over a number of capabilities, including memory, executive function, attention and speed, and language.

They found individuals with type 2 diabetes taking metformin had much slower cognitive decline and lower dementia risk compared to those not taking metformin.

Remarkably, in those with type 2 diabetes taking metformin, there was no difference in the rate of decline in cognitive function over 6 years compared to those without diabetes.

This study has provided promising initial evidence that metformin may protect against cognitive decline.

To establish a definitive effect, the researchers are now planning a large, randomized controlled trial of metformin in individuals at risk of dementia and assess their cognitive function over three years.

One author of the study is Professor Perminder Sachdev.

The study is published in Diabetes Care.

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