Treating diabetes with metformin helps reduce memory and thinking decline


By Ed Pinches | Wednesday 23 September 2020

New research published today (Wednesday 23 September) in the journal Diabetes Care suggests that the drug metformin may help reduce a decline in memory and thinking skills in people with diabetes. The research also finds that metformin use is associated with fewer cases of dementia.

What did the researchers investigate?

The researchers looked at three groups of people. Those with diabetes who were receiving the diabetes drug metformin, those with diabetes who were not taking the pill and those without diabetes altogether.

What did the researchers find?

They found no difference in memory and thinking decline between those with diabetes on the drug and those without diabetes. In those with diabetes, taking metformin slowed down the loss of memory and thinking skills over a six-year period.

They also looked at the number of new cases of dementia over the six years. Their results show that metformin use was linked with fewer people developing dementia over the six-year study.

What does our expert find?

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Repurposing an existing drug used for another health condition would be a cheaper and inexpensive way to bring about a new dementia treatment. In this well-conducted study in an elderly population looking at the effect of a diabetes drug metformin on memory and thinking changes, results suggest that metformin helps slow down memory changes in those with diabetes and the decline is comparable to people without the condition. However, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests those without diabetes taking metformin receive the same benefit.

“Diabetes is a risk factor for dementia and there is a lot of interest in the links between the two conditions. Our brains don’t operate in isolation from the rest of our bodies and we know that many things people can do to promote physical health. As well as tackling diabetes and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, the best current evidence suggests that not smoking, drinking within the recommended guidelines, staying mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”

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Ed Pinches