Turn Cancer’s ON Switch to OFF. Increase AMPK.
Metformin, originally known as glucophage (“sugar eater”), is currently used by type II diabetics the world over to suppress glucose production by the liver. It also increases liver sensitivity, beefs up glucose uptake by tissues, and reduces insulin-induced suppression of fatty acid oxidation.
But forget about its sugar-eating ability and focus on its cancer-fighting ability. In one of the largest studies of its kind, a group of scientists pored over the 10-year case histories of 8,000 type II diabetics who’d been using metformin. They found that metformin users had an incredible 54% lower incidence of ALL cancers compared to the general population.
Not only did the drug exhibit a preventative effect, but metformin users who developed cancer had a much higher survival rate, including those with malignant tumors of the lung, colon, and breast. The earlier they started using metformin, the longer they continued to fight off cancer.
So why would a blood-sugar lowering drug protect against cancer? One reason is that it reduces obesity, which is a risk factor for more than a dozen cancers. (Generally, there’s a 59% increase in the incidence of cancer for every 5-unit increase in body mass index, or BMI.)
Secondly, metformin increases the production of an enzyme known as adenosine monophosphate kinase, or AMPK, which in addition to being a fuel sensor and metabolic master switch, regulates cell growth and replication. It can literally tell cells to stop drawing energy. Once AMPK is activated, cancer cells end up starving themselves because the energy lifeline’s been cut.
The Problem: Metformin Has a Downside
Users can develop a side effect called lactic acidosis, which can be fatal. Others just don’t feel well while using the drug, and there’s also some evidence to suggest it could interfere with muscle growth.
A Natural Substitute
Luckily, there’s a natural substitute that affects AMPK (and presumably cancer) the same way as metformin.
It’s called cyandin 3-glucoside (sold as Indigo-3G®) and it’s a polyphenol found in dark colored fruits or berries. It also favorably partitions nutrients to muscle instead of fat, so it both fights cancer and buffs you up.
- Libby G, Donnelly LA, Donnan PT, Alessi DR, Morris AD, Evans JM. New users of metformin are at low risk of incident cancer: a cohort study among people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009 Sep;32(9):1620-5. 5.