I know quite a few of you who have been offered Metformin for diabetes and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).
But, if you are on it, did you know that it is quite likely that you will become folic acid and B12 deficient if you are on the drug for more than a year?
Most people think that aside from possible gastrointestinal upset, there are no side effects from taking metformin, and thus you can take it for a very long time. Recent evidence is showing that the longer you take metformin, the more likely it is that you will develop a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre in Brazil found that one of every three diabetics taking metformin for at least one year had indications of a possible vitamin B12 deficiency.
Long-term use of metformin also causes a decrease in folic acid (a B vitamin), and an increase in homocysteine, which in an undesirable metabolic substance if there is too much of it. [Ed’s note: it is one of the main indicators of cardiovascular risk]. Source: PCOS enews, May 12
You can read more about this in the links below: Nervo M et al, Vitamin B12 in metformin-treated diabetic patients: a cross-sectional study in Brazil, Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Mar;93(3):652-62
de Jager et al, Long term treatment with metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes and risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency: randomised placebo controlled trial, BMJ. 2010 May 20;340:c2181
So, two things occur.
The first is to make sure you look after your B12 and folate levels (incidentally, the homocysteine usually rises because of a deficiency of these two crucial B vitamins). A good multi with plenty of B12 and folate is a must. It’s probably easier to take a good multi and then add an extra B Complex.
Second, is there a good natural alternative to metformin?
Well, we do know that a healthy diet and lifestyle can change insulin patterns as much as metformin. But, of course, it is not as easy as taking a pill so many people prefer the drug, despite its side effects.
NAC a Natural Alternative to Metformin
NAC, N-acetyl-cysteine, an amino acid has been shown to be a good natural alternative. Erciyes University in Turkey has reported that NAC was equally effective as metformin for reducing the symptoms of PCOS.
In this study, 100 women with PCOS were evaluated for six months. One group took 500 mg Metformin 3 times a day. The other group took 600 mg of NAC 3 times a day. And guess what? The researchers reported that there was almost no difference between NAC and metformin. Both groups of women had improvement in testosterone reduction, improvement of hirsutism, insulin normalization, and normalization of cycles. Source PCOS enews.
Note the normalisation of insulin there – just what diabetics as well as PCOS sufferers need, so NAC and changing your diet and lifestyle has to be worth a try before resorting to a drug that depletes you in such important nutrients.