Diabetes drug taken by millions has unexpected benefit: making children taller

    30 September 2015

    A common diabetes drug taken by millions of people seems to have an unexpected side effect: it makes children slightly taller.

    A study published at JAMA Pediatrics found that children and teenagers who took larger doses of the drug metformin over prolonged periods gained an extra centimetre.

    Researchers analysed data from 10 studies looking at 560 children and teenagers.

    Normand G Boulé of the University of Alberta, Canada, said the height gain was probably greater than the study seemed to suggest.

    ‘While an approximate 1cm increase in height may appear small, it is likely underestimated given that many studies were of short duration and included older adolescents, potentially after epiphyseal growth plate closure …

    ‘Our results also suggest a need for additional longer-term studies in younger participants because preliminary evidence suggests that these individuals may experience greater increases in height compared with a control group.’

    Metformin, first found to reduce blood sugar in the 1920s, has been the subject of renewed interest.

    Last year a large survey in Britain found that people with type 2 diabetes who took metformin outlived those without the disease.

    A clinical trial is to begin in the US to determine whether the drug does actually lead to people living longer.