Diabetes drug may fend off depression

MONASH (AUS) — Taking a common medication that helps control blood sugar levels also seems to lower the risk of developing depression for people with diabetes.

A 12-year study based on a Taiwanese adult population cohort has shown the onset of diabetes increases the risk of mood disorders, mainly depression, by more than two and a half times.

However the study by researchers from Monash University and the National Health Research Institutes Taiwan also found when metformin is included in the treatment of diabetes, the incidence of mood disorders was reduced by more than 50 percent.


Metformin is the most commonly used medication for type 2 diabetes. Taken orally, it helps control blood sugar levels.

Lead author Mark Wahlqvist, a professor in Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute, says the increasing prevalence of diabetes is revealing complications beyond the well-known ones affecting the cardiovascular system, the eyes, peripheral nerves, and feet.

“In earlier research we found that dementia and Parkinson’s disease, the most common forms of known neurodegenerative disease, are more likely after the onset of diabetes,” says Wahlqvist.

“The same appears to be so for mood disorders including all forms of depression. We found depression and diabetes are more likely to occur together than would be expected from their respective separate prevalences.”

The researchers found the risk of all mood disorders, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease were reduced by metformin, especially when used with a sulfonylurea drug, commonly used to stimulate the beta cells to produce more insulin, as treatment. The findings are published in the open-access journal BMC Medicine.

“It is possible that neurodegenerative processes are at work in diabetes-associated depression and that the use of metformin may minimize this risk,” says Wahlqvist.

“As the global burden of diabetes to health care systems increases, these findings may be relevant to the reduction of mental health complications associated with diabetes.”

Source: Monash University