Common drug used to treat diabetes may delay dementia

Font Size:

One of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world may help delay cognitive decline and could even be ‘anti-ageing’.

The results of a six-year study on the drug metformin – commonly used to treat diabetes – reveal that it slows cognitive decline, mitigates the effects of diabetes on brain ageing, and lowers the dementia rates in people with type 2 diabetes.

Now, researchers want to know if it will have the same effect on people without diabetes.

“Metformin has multiple effects beyond improving blood glucose levels, at least in part, because it regulates insulin pathways that affect other pathways of cell function,” says study author Professor Katherine Samaras.

“But it may not work just through insulin and glucose pathways. It may have separate effects on cell ageing and there is some evidence showing that it affects the way cells rejuvenate.”

Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic proportions in Australia, and around 60 per cent of people with the condition will likely develop dementia.

So the findings will have a huge impact on those with type 2 diabetes, but it is hoped to have broader positive benefits.

“As they age, people living with type 2 diabetes have a staggering 60 per cent risk of developing dementia, a devastating condition that impacts thinking, behaviour, the ability to perform everyday tasks and the ability to maintain independence. This has immense personal, family, economic and societal impacts,” says Prof. Samaras.

“We were incredibly pleased to find that metformin seemed to remove the risk of diabetes on cognitive decline, and certainly on dementia development during the time we studied our participants.

“Remarkably, in those taking metformin, there was no difference in the rate of decline in their cognitive function over six years compared to those without diabetes.”

Conducted over six years by the Garvan Institute and the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, the study involved more than 1000 participants aged between 70 and 90, of which 123 participants had type 2 diabetes.

Metformin has been used as a frontline treatment for diabetes for 60 years.

Like aspirin, it has multiple benefits.

Studies of metformin over the past decade have revealed benefits in breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and weight management.

While the current study has revealed cognitive benefits for people with type 2 diabetes, it may also benefit those at risk of cognitive decline more broadly.

“This study has provided promising initial evidence that metformin may protect against cognitive decline. While type 2 diabetes is thought to increase dementia risk by promoting degenerative pathways in the brain and nerves, these pathways also occur in others at risk of dementia and it is possible insulin resistance may be the mediator,” says Prof. Samaras.

“To establish a definitive effect, we are now planning a large, randomised controlled trial of metformin in individuals at risk of dementia and assess their cognitive function over three years. This may translate to us being able to repurpose this cheap medication with a robust safety profile to assist in preventing against cognitive decline in older people.”

While the observational study does not provide conclusive proof that metformin can delay dementia, the results make it an intriguing medicine for future studies. The Australian Financial Review reports that the team has already secured funding to delve deeper.

“Metformin has even been suggested to be anti-ageing. The intriguing question is whether metformin is helpful in those with normal glucose metabolism. More work is clearly needed,” said senior author Professor Perminder Sachdev.

Do you or does anyone you know have diabetes? Have they been prescribed metformin?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s explained

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

Simple lifestyle changes could beat Alzheimer’s, says new study

Reduce your risk of Alzheimer's, even when you are at an older age.

Dementia risk in common over the counter drugs

Common medications far from harmless for those at risk of dementia: study.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 2
  1. 0

    I have been taking Metformin for 20+ years for Type 2 Diabetes. After my last General Health Exam, I was told I have a very slight level of Cognitive Disorder. Age 76

  2. 0

    I have been taking 1 tablet a day for years for type 2 diabetes, my blood readings remain reasonable and at age 91 still have my mental faculties.
    Pity, it doesn’t fix my ankles and knees to function normally 🙂



continue reading


Research shows vaccine willingness in Australia is high

COVID-19 vaccination has finally started, but the program will only work if a large enough proportion of the population agrees...


These seven tips are vital for healthy ageing

We're all living longer than ever, so it's a good idea to think about how you can help yourself stay...


Thinking of hiring a cleaner? Here's what you need to know

Busy lives and longer working hours mean today's householders have even less time for domestic chores, and many are turning...


How can the dead send emails? The ethical dilemma of digital souls

Patrick Stokes, Deakin University Tim Hart was sitting on his couch one evening in November 2011 when he got an...

Health news

Australians want to die at home - but do we achieve that goal?

How do you want to die? More than 70 per cent of Australians want the end to come at home,...


Rise in 'grey divorces' sparks warning from legal experts

More Australians are divorcing later in life, leading to "unique, confusing and overwhelming" challenges for couples aged over 50. The...


Friday Funnies: Short jokes for the shortest month

February flies by too fast, just like these short but sharp jokes. What is the recipe for Honeymoon Salad?Lettuce alone...


The four types of hearing loss explained

Research indicates that one in six Australians has some form of hearing loss.  Hearing loss refers to reduced hearing, which...