Researchers were thoroughly surprised by their findings, as they set out mostly to compare the long-term efficacy of two common Type 2 diabetes drugs, metformin and sulphonylureas. People without diabetes, and thus not taking either drug, were included in the study as a control group.
But when researchers compared the life spans of the three groups, they found those taking meformin not only outlived sulphonylureas users, but those without diabetes, too -- suggesting metformin has some sort of life extending properties. The study included health data collected from 180,000 people.
"What we found was illuminating," said Craig Currie, professor and researcher at Cardiff's School of Medicine. Currie is the lead author of the new study, which was published this week in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
"Patients treated with metformin had a small but statistically significant improvement in survival compared with the cohort of non-diabetics, whereas those treated with sulphonylureas had a consistently reduced survival compared with non-diabetic patients," Currie explained. "This was true even without any clever statistical manipulation."
Currie says metformin is cheap and already widely used by diabetics, but could it be good for a perfectly healthy person? The drug has previously shown to have anti-cancer and anti-cardiovascular disease benefits.
But researchers say the drug needs to be further tested before its deemed safe and effective for healthy populations.
"Until we see further research and clinical trials in this area, the prescribing of Metformin should be limited to people with Type 2 diabetes, for whom we know it can successfully help to manage their condition," Currie told The Telegraph.