In this article you will learn:
Why people take the prescription drugs Metformin and Rapamycin for antiaging
Understand the risks and benefits associated with these interventions based on the research
Get my personal take (disclaimer: I have not used Metformin or Rapamycin)
Metformin is the commonly known type 2 diabetes drug and it was synthesized from French lilac in the 1920’s. Rapamycin is a unique anti-fungal and anti-bacterial substance produced by soil bacteria. It was discovered on Easter Island during a Canadian research expedition in the 1960’s, and it was predominantly used to help someone with an organ transplant by suppressing their immune system.
Both of these drugs have gained massive popularity in the last two decades for their potential anti-aging effects, with animal studies and research from people like Dr. David
Sinclair and others showing their significant ability to impact the specific metabolic pathways mTOR and AMPK. Don't worry if that sounds like gibberish, because we'll try to get a simple idea in this article.
Basically, the exact mechanisms of these two drugs and their effects on aging is not well understood because the pathways they affect are very complicated, but in general it is thought that they mimic the effects of fasting on the body. Your body has a “growth”
mode and a “safe” mode, and each gets triggered by various lifestyle choices and biological circumstances.
The mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway gets activated by insulin, and since your insulin spikes when you eat (especially carbs), this tells your body to rev up many different processes related to growth and energy production because resources are present.(1)
The AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase) pathway is another extremely complicated system that kicks into gear when your body is low on energy, fasting or under a stress of some kind.(2) Another way you've probably heard about this is "anabolic vs. catabolic," like in gym and lifting circles.
Despite their complexity, you can think of one as Yang and the other as Yin, or as a gas pedal and the breaks. This makes sense from the perspective of Duality, and what metformin and rapamycin do is basically fool your body into thinking it is in calorie-restriction mode... without the calorie restriction part. They put water on your metabolic fire, make your body believe it is fasting, and as a result they create a whole host of benefits not the least of which is extending life.
Unfortunately, both drugs must be obtained with a prescription and they are not without their considerations and lack of long-term data.
Metformin has been used as a diabetes drug for a while, and although current anti-aging trials in humans are underway and expected in the next few years, there is clinical evidence for many other positive effects on cognition and all-cause mortality.(3) It beneficially impacts the mitochondria along with the AMPK pathway. While these mechanisms aren’t fully understood yet, the effects are pronounced. Metformin studies in rats and other animals are pretty robust because it is an older drug, and the life extension potential is significant even if given later in life.(4)