Metformin on my mind
(No. 54) Don't call me ageist, you geriatric millennial. By Stephen P. Williams
In this issue: Anti-aging drug/Millennial tears/films
A pill to roll back the years
Lilac blooms are fleeting. But the plant might inhibit aging. Photograph by Dmitry Tulupov
A few days ago I listened to a 29 year old tech whiz named Vitalik Buterin talk on a podcast about what he’s doing to live longer. The most striking step he’s made is to take Metformin, a drug widely prescribed to treat diabetes and infertility due to polycystic ovary syndrome. Curiously, Buterin takes it to prevent his cells from crumbling in on themselves as he ages.
Metformin lowers glucose production in the liver. It also enhances the body’s production of GDF15 (growth/differentiation factor), a protein the body makes in tiny amounts that seems to lower inflammation. Both of these factors help cells stay lively.
The drug is based on natural compounds found in French Lilac, aka Goat’s Rue. It has been marketed for decades and is the fourth most prescribed drug in the US. The World Health Organization put it on its list of essential medicines, because it is so useful in treating diabetes, by reducing blood sugar.
Metformin is popular among longevity warriors because studies show that Metformin-dosed worms and mice tend to live longer than unmedicated test cases.
Supposedly, variations of Metformin have been used to treat diabetes since the middle ages. The drug is said to be safe, with gastrointestinal upset being the most common side effect. It also can deplete your vitamin B12 levels, so if you take it, supplement your diet with that nutrient. Perhaps more worrisome, a recent study showed that people who exercised while taking Metformin gained fewer anti-aging benefits from their workout than did those who took a placebo.
Tech genious Vitalik Buterin takes Metformim to inhibit aging, and he’s only 29 years old.
Studies have suggested that Metformin can reduce a person’s risk of cognitive decline and cancer. But not all people benefit in these ways, and no one knows exactly how it works against aging. Metformin is not a mainstream anti-aging therapy. It seems to be used mostly by curious people who are hacking their bodies, so to speak. Numerous websites promise to prescribe and deliver Metformin for that purpose for as little as $5 a month.
It also causes some people to lose pounds. I gained too much weight during the pandemic, which is perilous for the aging body. Since healthy weight is important to staying youthful, I’m extra curious about Metformin. Yet since I have never tried it (or any anti—aging drugs), I can’t recommend Metformin or the websites that sell it. For now, I’ll stick to intermittent fasting and avoiding processed carbs to lose the weight slowly yet steadily.
Buterin is widely known as a genius. At age 19, he created the Ethereum blockchain along with a crypto currency (digital money) called Ether. His invention is intended to change the world by making finance, ownership and money work better for everyone. Ethereum fits into a money system called DeFi (decentralized finance) that might make investing for retirement easier and far less expensive in the future (though for now, it’s a volatile and complicated market). He is a smart, serious billionaire, and his scientific opinions carry weight. From Twitter:
Buterin has donated millions of dollars to anti-aging research, making him the rare bird that puts its money where its beak is. I’m afraid to take Metformin. And honestly, I kind of like the idea of dying when my body naturally wears out (though you might hear different words from my mouth when the time comes). Buterin calls my type of hesitancy “bio-conservatism,” and I think he’s right. I am a bio-conservative. But that doesn’t mean you should be.
A few worthwhile thoughts
Don’t call me geriatric
Geriatric millennials, please stand down. For one thing, you will never prevail in an argument with the younger generation. And for another, just remember that, in time, they too will suffer the indignities of aging. Laughter is the best medicine.
See yourself onscreen
The tenth Film Festival on Aging opens tomorrow. Check it out. Looks like there will be a lot of great films.
Anthony Lane, writing in the New Yorker magazine about a new film, The Father, says “Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his play about old age shows [Anthony] Hopkins at the frightening summit of his powers.”
A note about the future of the newsletter
I will be air dropping bonus content on Wednesdays, including video interviews, audio files, videos and charts. Plus, a little hard core medical news that might be important to you.
For now, this added content will be free, just like the Sunday newsletter. In the future, I will make the Wednesday surprises part of a paid package.
I find such pleasure and pride in knowing that thousands of you read my newsletter.
Camping in Marfa, Texas, July 2020. Selfie by Self.
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