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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Ancona, MS, RDN, CDN

Berberine: What is it and why is it called “Nature’s Ozempic”?

Who has heard of berberine? What is it? There are so many different supplements out there, so we are here to explain this one in more detail for you!

Berberine is a bio active compound that is found in a few plants like European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, philodendron, and tree turmeric. Due to the fact that it comes from plants, it contains nitrogen-containing products called alkaloids (i.e. morphine, nicotine, and caffeine). It is a very bitter-tasting and yellow-colored chemical, that has recently been casted into the spotlight. This is because it has been said to have some positive health effects that may help to strengthen the heartbeat, kill bacteria, as well as regulate how the body uses sugar in the blood.

Berberine has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 400 years, but it has now caught the attention of individuals in Western culture who are also starting to look more at natural approaches and treatments to any health conditions they have going on. Although it is not as well known as caffeine, this staple in traditional Chinese medicine has mainly been used to treat diarrhea and gastrointestinal related issues.

In American culture it is currently most used by individuals with diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It has also been known to be used for burns, canker sores, and liver diseases; however, there is no strong scientific research behind the topical uses. The most studied benefit of berberine is its effect on blood sugar levels and diabetes. Berberine has been shown to specifically help regulate how glucose is processed, which can help keep blood sugars under control. Its mechanism increases the amount of insulin your body produces and decreases cell resistance, resulting in lower blood sugar. Overall it can improve insulin resistance to increase the glucose movement into cells, as well as how cells use glucose.

When berberine is taken as a pill or powder, it enters the bloodstream and travels to your cells. But instead of producing a single target, berberine interacts with multiple targets, impacting more than one disease at a time. This is why it can also help with the below conditions as well!

Berberine can also reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Research has shown that berberine may lower lipid levels, which in the long term can reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies also show that it can help to raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels while lowering total cholesterol, bad ( LDL) cholesterol, and blood triglycerides. The research has also shown that berberine and hypertension medication combined can lower blood pressure more than just blood pressure medication alone.

Lastly, similar to Ozempic berberine can assist with weight loss. This supplement does so by improving how cells respond to insulin and further promoting the better movement of glucose into cells; it affects the way the glucose gets used. When the cells have the glucose they need you do not feel as hungry. The decreased appetite causes less food intake, and further causes weight loss with the decreased calorie intake.

This is why it can be compared to nature’s Ozempic. Ozempic has the same effect on diabetic patients, and can also result in weight loss.

With the lack of current research that has been done on this supplement, we would not necessarily recommend this as a weight loss treatment. There has never been a large scale, randomized clinical trial for this supplement to even be looked at for FDA approval. Dosages of berberine are also not well studied and are quite variable in past research. For example, many different studies say between 300-3,000 mg recommended daily. These are so different and could be dangerous. Registered dietitians would not recommend this product as safe for weight loss.

If you are interested in trying this supplement please talk to your doctor and dietitian to discuss if it is safe for you!

Until Next Time,

Katherine Ancona, MS, RDN, CDN

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