Metformin Benefits: Another Example for Alternative Energy Substrate Mechanism?

Andrea Giaccari, Anna Solini, Simona Frontoni, Stefano Del Prato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Since the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), metformin has been considered the first-line medication for patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes. Though direct evidence from specific trials is still lacking, several studies have suggested that metformin may protect from diabetes- and nondiabetes-related comorbidities, including cardiovascular, renal, neurological, and neoplastic diseases. In the past few decades, several mechanisms of action have been proposed to explain metformin's protective effects, none being final. It is certain, however, that metformin increases lactate production, concentration, and, possibly, oxidation. Once considered a mere waste product of exercising skeletal muscle or anaerobiosis, lactate is now known to act as a major energy shuttle, redistributed from production sites to where it is needed. Through the direct uptake and oxidation of lactate produced elsewhere, all end organs can be rapidly supplied with fundamental energy, skipping glycolysis and its possible byproducts. Increased lactate production (and consequent oxidation) could therefore be considered a positive mechanism of action of metformin, except when, under specific circumstances, metformin and lactate become excessive, increasing the risk of lactic acidosis. We are proposing that, rather than considering metformin-induced lactate production as dangerous, it could be considered a mechanism through which metformin exerts its possible protective effect on the heart, kidneys, and brain and, to some extent, its antineoplastic action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-654-654
JournalDiabetes Care
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • diabetic nephropathy
  • lactic acid
  • personalized medecine


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