Diabetes drug 'cuts dementia risk'
A WIDELY used drug may significantly reduce the risk of diabetes patients developing Alzheimer's disease, research suggests.
But trials are under way to assess the drug metformin's potential as a therapy both for dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can lead to Alzheimer's.
Metformin is used to sensitise patients with type 2 diabetes to the hormone insulin. The disease develops when the body ceases to respond to insulin, causing a build-up of blood sugar.
Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente research institute in California looked at almost 15,000 diabetes patients aged 55 and older who were starting single-therapy treatment with metformin or a range of other drugs.
Over a period of five years, those taking metformin were 20pc less likely to develop dementia.
"These results provide preliminary evidence that the benefits of insulin sensitisers may extend beyond glycaemic (sugar) control to neurocognitive health," said study leader Dr Rachel Whitmer.
"Research in animals suggests that metformin may contribute to the creation of new brain cells and enhance spatial memory."
Dr Eric Karran, from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "We know that diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer's, but the observation that metformin appears to be particularly linked to lower dementia risk suggests its effects could be independent of its ability to lower blood sugar."