Why are biohackers using Metformin?According to Tim Ferriss, Silicon Valley executives have been taking metformin as a prophylactic measure for cancer prevention and as a longevity strategy. I know a friend or two who takes Metformin in NYC as well. Metformin has been shown to inhibit the mTOR pathway, which “plays a pivotal role in metabolism, growth and proliferation of cancer cells.” Although it isn’t proven, biohackers largely use metformin as an anti0cancer drug. Ironically, there have been several Metformin recalls due to unacceptably high levels of NDMA in many drug samples. For more on the quality control issues with Metformin doses, see the FDA’s page.
Side effects of MetforminBiohacker and professional trainer, Ben Greenfield believes Metformin harms athletic performance and mitochondrial function over the long term. WebMD lists many side effects of metformin, such as:
- B12 deficiency
- Physical weakness
- Muscle pain
- Upper respiratory tract infection
Is berberine better than metformin?Berberine is a natural alkaloid compound long used in Traditional Chinese and Aryuvedic medicine. When taken orally, berberine has a hypoglycemic effect in that it lowers blood sugar.[ footnote id=”5″] In fact, studies show that supplementing with berberine is just as effective at treating type 2 diabetes as metformin and that it also inhibits the mTOR pathway as metformin does. 6 7 Why then wouldn’t berberine act as a buffer against the spiking insulin levels that increase circulating levels of IGF-1 and eventually mTOR? Why isn’t everyone taking a little berberine everyday, especially with high glycemic meals? There are five answers:
- As far as cancer is concerned, berberine may behave differently depending on the dose administered
- Most people haven’t heard of berberine
- Berberine carries with it some unpleasant side effects
- Berberine is actually more expensive than metformin which costs only a few dollars a pill
Dosing berberineWhen micro dosed, at very small levels, this peer reviewed study published in the Journal PLOS One, found that berberine actually encouraged the growth of cancer cells and interfered with cancer drug therapies:
Our results demonstrated that berberine at low dose range (1.25 ~ 5 μM) promoted cell proliferation to 112% ~170% of the untreated control in various cancer cells, while berberine at high dose rage (10 ~ 80 μM) inhibited cell proliferation. Further, we observed that co-treatment with low dose berberine could significantly attenuate the anticancer activity of chemotherapeutic agents, including fluorouracil (5-FU), camptothecin (CPT), and paclitaxel (TAX).These findings are known as hormesis, the situation where a low dose can cause adaptation, where a higher dose is destructive. The question becomes: what does a dose that has anti-cancer effect look like in milligrams? 1.25 – 5μM is between 0.42 – 1.68mg of berberine, which is a very very low dose. Even a “micro-dose” regimen at 200mg is far higher than the amount shown to encourage cancer growth and diminish activity of cancer medications. Many supplements offer berberine in 1,000 mg doses.