Could Ibuprofen Help You to Live Longer? Maybe

Side effects may outweigh possible benefits
Could Ibuprofen Help You Live Longer? Maybe

You take ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce fevers or headaches. But could this common, over-the-counter drug also hold the key to a longer, healthier life? Authors of a new study suggest it’s possible.

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Researchers from Texas A&M gave regular doses of ibuprofen to baker’s yeast, worms and flies and found the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) extended the species’ lifespans.

The research was published Thursday online in the journal Public Library of Science-Genetics.

The researchers used baker’s yeast, a single-cell microorganism that is commonly used by scientists to understand biological phenomena. Discoveries made with this organism often provide scientific insight into the workings of other organisms, such as humans.

“We first used baker’s yeast, which is an established aging model, and noticed that the yeast treated with ibuprofen lived longer,” says Michael Polymenis, PhD, an AgriLife Research biochemist at Texas A&M. “Then we tried the same process with worms and flies and saw the same extended lifespan. Plus, these organisms not only lived longer, but also appeared healthy.”

Dr. Polymenis says the three-year project showed that ibuprofen interferes with the ability of yeast cells to pick up tryptophan, an amino acid found in every cell of every organism. Tryptophan is essential for humans, who get it from protein sources in the diet.

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Side effects

Does this mean that if humans take ibuprofen, they will live a longer and healthier life? Not necessarily, says Josie Znidarsic, DO. Dr. Znidarsic is an integrative medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.

Care must be taken when extrapolating study results from one organism to another, Dr. Znidarsic says. However, it’s possible that ibuprofen’s longevity effect may come from its anti-inflammatory properties, she says.

“We know that inflammation in the body – which comes from a lot of different sources – is the basis for a lot of chronic health problems,” Dr. Znidarsic says.

However, she says, there are better ways to control inflammation — such as eating a healthier diet — without risking ibuprofen’s side effects, which can include bleeding ulcers, blood clots, heart attack and stroke.

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“The question is, does everyone know what their individual risk is beforehand? For example, if you have gastrointestinal or heart issues, you may be at greater risk for side effects from ibuprofen like clotting or stroke,” Dr. Znidarsic says.

“We often overlook the lifestyle changes that are really necessary because we want the quick-fix,” Dr. Znidarsic says. “Taking an anti-inflammatory every day may not be your best option. Like any drug, patients need to be aware of the side effects before taking something daily.”

Dr. Znidarsic says to be sure to talk to your doctor before taking a daily anti-inflammatory drug.

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