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Is Berberine, in fact, "Nature's Ozempic"? The viral supplement receives feedback from experts.

Is Berberine, in fact, "Nature's Ozempic"? The viral supplement receives feedback from experts.
Source: womenshealthmag.com

If you take a quick look through TikTok, you might notice that a new little yellow pill is getting a lot of attention for its claim to be a magic bullet for weight loss: berberine.


Promoted as "nature's Ozempic" and regularly sold in case or powder form, this plant-based compound has advanced into the spotlight. Millions of people who create social media are raving about its Ozempic-like ability to lose weight.


And attention is being paid to it. There have been over 69 million views on Berberine, with 23 million for #berberinesupplement, 5.5 million for #naturesozempic, and over 3.9 million for #berberineforweightloss.


The draw? Berberine is readily available in drugstores and can be purchased over-the-counter, promising to be a less expensive alternative to the costly semaglutide prescription medications used for weight loss, such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus (which can cost as much as nearly $900 for a one-month dose). Additionally, for those who aren't yet ready to make the switch to a prescription medication, the fact that it comes from nature may make it appear as though it should be taken for granted.


Is this one too good to be true, like many dupes that have recently gone viral on the internet? Here, experts discuss the hyped benefits of this supplement, how it works in the body, and whether or not there is any hard science to support the claim that berberine is "nature's Ozempic."


Berberine: What is it?

According to Rahi Sarbaziha, MD, a Los Angeles-based double board-certified integrative medicine specialist, berberine is an alkaloid, which is an organic compound found in plants like barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. According to Dr. Sarbaziha, berberine has been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries because of its numerous alleged health benefits, even though it has quickly become part of the zeitgeist in 2023.


Berberine may also be used in a variety of cuisines. According to Dr. Sarbaziha, the barberry fruit—which also contains berberine—is a favorite seasoning for Persian rice dishes because of its prized bitter, tart, and tangy notes.


However, it is also said to have some health benefits for the body.


What does the body do with berberine?

Obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes may all benefit from the compound. According to research, it can also aid in the treatment of cardiovascular issues brought on by those conditions.


Obviously, these alleged health benefits are excellent; however, what people really want to know right now is whether or not Ozempic aids in weight loss. The substance affects your blood sugar levels by targeting an enzyme known as AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is involved in activating insulin receptors. According to Dr. Sarbaziha, berberine may help increase metabolism by activating AMPK, which may result in weight loss effects.


According to Dr. Sarbaziha and Payam Vahedifar, MD, a physician from Nuvo Spine & Sports Institute & Ortho Regenerative Center, berberine may improve insulin sensitivity, assist in reducing glucose production in the liver, and possibly promote the uptake of glucose into cells. () (As well, research suggests this.) "These effects can help regulate blood sugar levels and potentially benefit individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance," according to Dr. Sarbaziha.


Berberine's potential to lower lipids, which could be beneficial to heart health as a whole, has also been studied, as both doctors point out. Berberine may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, according to a small 2012 study on humans and rats (human subjects with obesity lost an average of five pounds). However, Dr. Vahedifar quickly points out that no similar large-scale randomized trials have been conducted since.


Nevertheless, a recent meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials involving berberine in 2021 added support to these findings, indicating that berberine may also increase HDL cholesterol. Berberine may benefit cardiovascular health as a whole by improving lipid profiles, according to Dr. Sarbaziha.


Is berberine helpful for losing weight?

The response right now is more of a hazy "maybe" than a resounding "yes."


According to Dr. Sarbaziha, "Berberine may help increase metabolism, leading to potential effects on weight loss." Here is the key word: may.


The efficacy of this compound for weight loss is still unknown, despite the fact that it possesses some properties that may be beneficial to your body. This is because there aren't many good large-scale, long-term clinical trials to point to, and current research has focused more on animal testing than human ones.


On the other hand, Ozempic (approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes but used off-label to help people lose weight) and Wegovy (approved by the FDA to help people lose weight) have much better research results, with patients losing a lot of weight. People typically lose about 15% of their body weight after a few months of taking the semaglutide medications.


Are supplements with berberine safe?

According to Dr. Sarbaziha, they are indeed considered safe for the majority of people when taken in the appropriate amounts. However, there is a catch: Supplements affect different people in different ways, and some people may experience more side effects or interactions with other drugs.


Dr. Sarbaziha warns that taking berberine can still cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, or an upset stomach, despite the fact that these side effects aren't very common.


You need to be cautious about where you get your supplements because they are not typically subject to the same testing and regulations as prescription medications and are not heavily regulated by the FDA. The majority of the studies that have been conducted to date suggest a daily dosage of between 500 and 1500 milligrams of berberine, but there is no comprehensive quality control system in place. According to Janese Laster, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Gut Theory Total Digestive Care who specializes in non-surgical endobariatric procedures and medical weight loss, "it's difficult to know what patients are getting from bottle to bottle."


The selection process for supplements is important. You should start your search by talking to a doctor about possible dosages and looking for a product that has been tested by a third party.


Dr. Sarbaziha also recommends consulting your doctor prior to starting berberine to avoid health complications if you are currently taking any other medications or have active medical conditions.


According to Dr. Sarbaziha, "Although there is not much research done on the topic of pregnancy, it is advised not to take berberine if you are pregnant." This is due to the fact that some case studies have suggested that berberine may possibly cause fetal jaundice, teratogenesis, and premature delivery. Berberine is not recommended for pregnant women.


Is berberine, then, truly "nature's Ozempic"?

Berberine is not a substitute for a healthy diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes, but it may be used as a tool in some weight loss plans.


In addition, despite what TikTokers may tell you about their experiences with the supplements, the mechanisms at work in berberine supplements and the prescription medication Ozempic are not the same, so you shouldn't expect the same outcomes. Berberine, on the other hand, is not a prescription drug that works in the central nervous system to reduce appetite, slow gastric emptying, improve insulin resistance, or improve satiety.


Dr. Sarbaziha asserts, "It is not nearly as effective as Ozempic." "Not the same as Ozempic in any way," Dr. Laster adds.


Berberine probably isn't going to be your holy grail if you want to lose any significant weight, especially not on its own. If it were that easy, I would always tell my patients, "Trust me, we would use it for everyone!" Dr. Laster says, "Weight loss requires no tricks or gimmicks.

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