The type 2 diabetes drug metformin could be used to lower cholesterol levels, according to new research.

The study, conducted by researchers at the German Diabetes Centre in Düsseldorf, analysed the blood samples of more than 1,800 participants.

The researchers looked for metabolites that would provide evidence of blood lipid profiles. They split the participants into several groups: one group was given metformin, and the four control groups were not.

The researchers found significantly lower concentrations of three metabolites in the metformin group. The metabolites were all associated with lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

It was hypothesised that the lower levels of LDL cholesterol could be explained by genes associated with AMPK, a molecular mechanism activated by metformin. By activating AMPK, metformin controls the genes associated with LDL cholesterol levels.

"Our study suggests that metformin might indeed have an additional beneficial effect with regards to cardiovascular diseases among the diabetes patients," said first author Dr. Tao Xu.

Dr. Stefan Brandmaier, co-first author, added: "Until now the exact mechanism is unclear. Thus, we want to continue our contribution to its decryption."

The study is one of several that have examined metformin's potential for use in treating conditions other than type 2 diabetes. Other studies have suggested that metformin could treat Alzheimer's disease, or at least have a positive effect on the brain.


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