According to a large-scale study conducted by researchers at Cardiff University, type 2 diabetes patients treated with metformin live longer than people without the disease.
The surprising benefits of metformin could be expanded for use in non-diabetics.
The study was published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
Metformin’s attributes had been circulating within the scientific community, and the findings of the Cardiff University study not only build on its benefits but are of particular interest due to the massive sample size of 180,000 participants.
Researchers compared survival rates of type 2 diabetes patients taking metformin, a first-line therapy, with those of patients on a less-prescribed diabetes drug called sulphonylurea, known for undesirable side effects such as weight gain and hypoglycemia.
“What we found was illuminating,” said lead author Prof. Craig Currie from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine.
According to Dr. Craig Currie, patients undergoing metformin treatment exhibited small yet statistically important survival increases by comparison to non-diabetics.
As for those treated with sulphonylureas, their rate of survival was consistently reduced when compared to that of non-diabetics.
Researchers used data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink, representing around 10% of the UK population.
They identified 78,241 patients who were prescribed metformin as a first-line therapy and 12,222 patients prescribed a sulphonylurea as a first-line therapy.
Each patient was then compared to a non-diabetic.
Patients with type 2 diabetes are often forced to resort to more aggressive treatment options as their disease progresses, so a long life expectancy is no guarantee, although Dr. Craig Currie plans to concoct a long-term treatment plan for diabetics to circumvent this transition.
Metformin is a cheap drug and has exhibited preventative capabilities in the domains of cancer and cardiac disease.
Dr. Craig Currie points out that it can prevent those at risk for diabetes from actually developing the disease and he says his findings indicate that the drug could be beneficial for those with type 1 diabetes.
An analysis of hundreds of years of eunuch “family” records showed that castration had a huge effect on the lifespans of Korean men.
They lived up to 19 years longer than uncastrated men from the same social class and even outlived members of the royal family.
The researchers believe the findings show male hormones shorten life expectancy.
The study is published in the journal Current Biology.
Castration before puberty prevents the shift from boy to man. One of the scientists involved in the study, Dr. Cheol-Koo Lee from Korea University, said: “The records said that eunuchs had some women-like appearances such as no moustache hair, large breasts, big hips and thin high-pitched voice.”
An analysis of hundreds of years of eunuch "family" records showed that castration had a huge effect on the lifespans of Korean men
Eunuchs had important roles in many cultures from protecting harems to castrati superstar singing sensations. The imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty used eunuchs to guard the gates and manage food. They were the only men outside the royal family allowed to spend the night in the palace.
They could not have children of their own, so they adopted girls or castrated boys.
Researchers in South Korea analyzed the genealogical record of these “eunuch families”.
They worked out the lifespans of 81 eunuchs born between 1556 and 1861. The average age was 70 years, including three centenarians – the oldest reached 109.
By comparison, men in other families in the noble classes lived into their early 50s. Males in the royal family lasted until they were just 45 on average.
There are no records for women at the time for comparison.
Dr. Kyung-Jin Min, from Inha University, said: “We also thought that different living circumstances or lifestyles of eunuchs can be attributed to the lifespan difference.
“However, except for a few eunuchs, most lived outside the palace and spent time inside the palace only when they were on duty.”
Instead he thinks the data “provides compelling evidence that male sex hormone reduces male lifespan”.
Women tend to outlive men across human societies. However, theories are hard to test in experiments and the exact reason for the difference is uncertain.
One thought is that male sex hormones such as testosterone, which are largely produced in the testes, could be damaging. The researchers said the hormones could weaken the immune system or damage the heart. Castration would prevent most of the hormone from being produced, protecting the body from any damaging effect and prolonging lifespan.
Dr. Kyung-Jin Min said: “It is quite possible that testosterone reduction therapy extends male lifespan, however, we may need to consider the side effects of it, mainly reduction of sex drive in males.”
Japanese women have fallen behind Hong Kong in terms of global life expectancy rankings for the first time in 25 years.
This was partly due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in March 2011, said an annual report by Japan’s health ministry.
The expected lifespan for Japanese women dropped from 86.30 years in 2010 to 85.90 years in 2011.
The official life expectancy for women in Hong Kong last year was 86.70 years.
Japanese women have fallen behind Hong Kong in terms of global life expectancy rankings for the first time in 25 years
Japan has topped the women’s rankings for a quarter of a century, with longevity attributed in part to a healthy traditional diet.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 dead or missing pushed the life expectancy down.
However the report noted that even without the disaster Japanese women would still have dropped behind Hong Kong in the statistics.
Other factors contributing to the dip included a rise in the number of suicides among Japanese women, disease and other natural death causes, the report said.
The life expectancy for men in Japan also declined from 79.55 in 2010 to 79.44 last year.
The men dropped from fourth place in 2010 to eighth last year in the global life expectancy ranking, said Japan’s Kyodo news agency.