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Side Effects of Metformin May Cause Problems With Thinking: Study

  • Written by: Martha Garcia
  • 73 Comments

The findings of a new study raises potential concerns about the side effects of meformin, suggesting that the popular diabetes drug may impair brain functions and cause users to experience problems thinking. 

Metformin is a widely used medication for treatment of type 2 diabetes, which is also known under the brand names Glumetza, Riomet, Fortamet and Glucophage. It is also part of several popular combination therapies, including the blockbuster medication Janumet, which combines metformin with the top selling diabetes drug Januvia.

In a report published by the journal Diabetes Care, researchers compiled data from several different studies, including the Primary Research in Memory (PRIME) study; Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study and data from the Barwon region of southeastern Australia.

Researchers found that participants with diabetes performed worse on cognitive performance than those who did not have diabetes, with individuals taking a metformin drug performing significantly worse.

More than 1,300 patients were evaluated who had Alzheimer’s disease, mildly impaired brain function and no cognitive impairments; along with a subset group which also had type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose intolerance. Patients who suffered a stroke or had neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer’s were not included in the study.

Patients with type 2 diabetes performed poorly on cognitive impairment tests and those who took metformin performed even worse.

Researchers found metformin was associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency, which in turn resulted in impaired cognitive performance. Patients with vitamin B12 levels less than 250 pmol/L had the worst cognitive performance.

Conversely, patients with type 2 diabetes taking metformin, but who also took calcium or vitamin B12 supplements had better cognitive outcomes.

Eileen Moore, PhD, and her team of researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia used a mini-mental state exam (MMSE) to determine cognitive performance in patients. The average patients age was 73 years old, with approximately 60% being female.

Metformin has been hailed by some as a wonder drug in treating type 2 diabetes, however not with its own set of risks. Prior studies have suggested the drug could increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. It has also been associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.

Researchers say the data warrants further trials to investigate the association between diabetes, cognitive decline and metformin. They also would like to assess the effects of vitamin B12 and calcium on cognition in the older population who have diabetes and are taking drugs like Glucophage or Glumetza.

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73 comments

  1. Charles Reply

    In 2013 I had a serious allergy to the drug Metformin. I had all of the signs and symptoms of Lactose Acidosis , inability to taste , memory deficits , brittle bones, headaches , diarreah , weight loss , pain throughout my body , hives, unsteady gait , blurred vision , poor coordination , and low self-esteem. It took several years to get back to some normalcy, and even now I struggle and mask issues of pain and memory deficits. I still have stomach pains and muscle weakness. I talked to Legal Representatives in Texas and their seemed to be no recourse. I am stuck with a Hugh medical bill and continue to struggle with paying bills. I am a Disabled Veteran , and fortunately I have been able to ge

  2. ShirleyShelley Reply

    I was told by a doctor that if it were up to her everybody would be on Metformin who was Diabetic. I also was told that I should only take Metformin only one year, then take some other medication for Diabetes. Thankfully, today my numbers are down, but now I am having complications from yet taking the Metformin.

  3. elaine Reply

    Memory lost kidney failure bell palsey headaches shaky problems walking took metformin 1000 mg 4 8 years was place on invokana then janumet/metformin

  4. Cassandra Reply

    Metformin and taking the medicine.

  5. Diana Reply

    My father was on Metformin for years. He started feeling the “fog” others noted, but chalked it up to old age, along with the frequent urination. He developed trouble walking, taking tiny, shuffling steps, almost as if he had Parkinson’s. It got so bad, along with the dizziness he developed, he started to fall. He ended up in the ER where they did a battery of tests, and found he had acidosis. MRI showed brain changes consistent with fluid build up in the ventricles. Altogether they point to the Metformin. I came up with the same conclusion googling his symptoms and test results. They took him off the medication and now he has a shunt in his brain to drain the fluid.

    If you are on this or ANY other medication, please look at the side-effects closely. Even if it is a 1% chance, someone was in the 1%.

    Question your doctors. Do your research. Monitor your body and cognitive changes. Keep your family members informed. You are not bothering them. If you are the one on the medication, and your family member observes a change, see your doctor and challenge them. My father seemed to be at one doctor or another monthly. Nobody looked for the differential diagnosis, with his odd gait a tell-tale sign. I’d always ask how did the doctor visit go – no new news. Had they caught it sooner, the outcome may have been better.

    My father has been robbed of quality years, and now has other issues to deal with because of this medication.

  6. Tiffanie Reply

    In 2004- 2007 I was put on to the drug Metformin. I had all of the signs and symptoms of Lactose Acidosis , inability to taste , memory deficits , brittle bones, headaches , diarreah , weight loss , pain throughout my body , blurred vision , poor coordination , and low self-esteem. It took several years to get back to some normalcy, and even now I struggle and mask issues of pain and memory deficits. I still have stomach pains and muscle weakness. I have cellulite really bad and it had caused me to have low self esteem. I don’t wear shorts or dresses. Because of the embarrassment from people starring and comments. I still till this day fight with memory loss and I’m only 42 years old. It’s embarrassing when your kids ask something our mother older than you can remember something you can’t. I’ve had MRI’S done I’ve had scans on my brain and the doctors would tell me my brain function is fine and my own family noticed the change.

  7. Richardo Reply

    I have experienced many hardships and believe it is a result of Metformin

  8. Roger Reply

    I was put on metformin 6-7 years ago by the VA doctors. My memory started to go and It got so I was unable to think things through. I vertily gave my business away, and have not received payment for over a year. It got so bad, my equilibrium was almost gone. It was very difficult to walk. The VA doctors kept sending me to physical therapy. I decided to see a doctor at the free clinic as physical therapy was doing nothing for me. He told me to stop taking metformin, and the next day I could walk. Still have brain fog problems, but slowly getting better. VA did a MRI on my brain and 3 large white blotches were there. They keep saying it is nothing, but I do not believe them anymore.

  9. Teresa Reply

    My husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2001. The doctor put him on Metformin. He took this medicine for 17 years. In 2016 he was diagnosed with Demtia and the doctor took him off Metformin. After reading an Internet article stating that people taking this drug over 10 years, 50% of them had problems with cognitive thinking. My husband now don’t comprehend names of things, can’t follow instructions, has had a personality change for the past 8 years. He no longer is able to work, drive, or handle finances. He no longer mows the lawn. He continues to degress as time quickly passes. We couldn’t understand why he got this disease when there was no family history of it. This is a shame what this medicine has done to my husband.

  10. WILMA Reply

    I HAVE A COUSIN WHO LIVES WITH ME FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS. THE DOCTOR PUT HIM ON METFORMIN AND JANUIVA FOR TYPE 2 DIABETES. HE IS GETTING WORSE WITH HIS THINKING AND IS SO DIZZY HE CAN HARDLEY WALK. WE HAVE BEEN TO SEVERAL DOCTORS BUT NO RELIEF. HE IS NO LONGER ABLE TO DRIVE, HANDLE HIS FINANCES OR WORK OUTSIDE. I KNOW NOW WHAT HAS HAPPEN TO HIM. IT IS A SHAME WE ARE GIVEN MEDS. THAT NEARLY KILL US INSTEAD OF HELPING OUR HEALTH.

  11. j Reply

    where is the sign up for a class action on Metformin? It’s criminal what it’s doing to lives and docs do not track the decline!

  12. Delores Reply

    I have had several MRI’S done on the brain, my doctor tell me that my brain function is fine but my family has noticed a big change in my memory. I have trouble seeing (blurred vision) daily especially three to four hours after I have waken up in the morning. I have poor coordination has lost my balance so many times. I have severe headaches being nauseated. My joints hurt with foot and leg pain, aching swollen feet daily more so late in the evening. I’m too tied to walk as much as I use to, my legs feel week. I have to pace myself because if not my heart began to rapidly race very fast. I have been feeling dizzy, brain fog, too tried to get out of bed. I have been getting stomach pains, stomach bloating associated with plenty gas until I am so embarrass cause I never know when I am about to pass gas. I have gained so much weight. I am only urinating once daily.

  13. Judith Reply

    About a year ago it was determined that I had Type 2 diabetes and was prescribed Metformin. Six months ago I complained to him that I thought I had a yeast infection and couldn’t clear it up. He referred me to Michael Cady, OB/Gyn. After a physical exam he told me I have Lichen/Schleroses and am already showing signs of its “flesh eating” characteristics. It is painful and odiferous. I’ll have it the rest of my life. There is no cure. Constant leg and foot spasms at night are unbearable at times. The confusion and lapses of memory I’ve been chalking up to old age. I have quit taking the Metformin

  14. Charles Reply

    While on Metformin my kidney shut down

  15. Markitta Reply

    I HAVE BEEN ON METFORMIN FOR YEARS AND I HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING TO MY DR THAT I FEEL I HAVE LOST CONCENTRATION AND FORGET A LOT OF INFORMATION MY DR HAS NEVER TOLD ME THESE COULD BE POSSIBLE FROM THE MEDICATION. I THOUGHT I WAS LOSING MY MIND I JUST HOPE THAT HE CAN FIND ANOTHER MEDICATION TO PEPLACE THE METFORMIN.

  16. Larry Reply

    I knew something was causing my memory loss and ability to think

  17. Paula Reply

    My male roommate went to his PCP but saw a A.R.N.P. and she said he tested positive for diabetes II and gave him a prescription for Metformin 500 m.g. When he got home he showed me his new prescription for Metformin , I told him I have previously seen lawsuits against that drug and it isn’t worth while , that he should demand another prescription for type II . His blood sugar really wasn’t that high , therefore I feel he should demand/ask for a different drug ex: Glipizide

  18. daniel Reply

    metformin also caused me total confusion

  19. Diana Reply

    I haven’t really found others who share the issues I’ve had since taking Metformin. It gave me awfully debilitating diarrhea, the likes of which I’d never experienced previously. I stopped taking it after a few months, but the side effect remained. I’ve since had to quit coffee and adjust my diet significantly, and I still suffer from painful diarrhea after eating most foods. I doubt there’s a way to prove it, but it really feels like Metformin permanently damaged my gut and gave me irritable bowel syndrome.

  20. Deoncha Reply

    Loss weight , confusion,and loss of interest of life

  21. Donna Reply

    Cost me my job, that I loved, and quality of life, possible financial ruin

  22. Dawn Reply

    My dr said eat a tom of sugar and come in in the morning my glucose was “GOOD ENOUGHT” And put me on metformin. I never had elevated sugar levels never. So got a mew dr. Never had type 2. Found out she was a weightloss dr.

  23. Kerry Reply

    I would suggest doing a lot of research. I can assure any and all the side affects ARE REAL.

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