A three-pence diabetes pill already taken by more than three million Britons may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers.
Metformin, sold as Glucophage, slows mental decline – slashing rates of the neurological illness.
The drug could be a “game changer”, say scientists. It has already been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Professor Katherine Samaras, of the Garvan Institute, in Sydney, Australia, said: “We’ve revealed the promising new potential for a safe and widely used medication.
“It could be life-changing for patients at risk of dementia and their families.
“For those with type 2 diabetes, metformin may add something extra to standard glucose lowering in diabetes care – a benefit for cognitive health.”
It also offers hope of staving off memory loss and confusion in the general population, she said.
The findings are based on 1037 people aged 70 to 90 – 123 of whom had type 2 diabetes.
The 67 receiving metformin to lower blood sugar levels had much better brain function and lower dementia risk compared to those not taking the drug.
Metformin is the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes – linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s one of the most commonly prescribed drugs worldwide.