What is Berberine?
Berberine is an herbal compound found in various plants’ roots, stems, and bark, including barberry, tree turmeric, yellowroot, goldenseal, and Oregon grape.
It has been used for generations in Chinese Herbal Medicine but has only recently gained attention, primarily driven by social media, for its purported health benefits. Advocates of berberine use cite its possible impact on various health conditions including cholesterol, blood glucose and diabetes, inflammation, and even weight.
What the Evidence Says about Berberine
Some may ask if there is scientific evidence to support the use of berberine for weight loss. The short answer is no. While berberine has been studied for many years, all available studies are small, of low quality, and frequently without a proper control group or randomization. We should not draw major conclusions from these types of studies, as they are prone to bias. This means that the results may be invalid or misleading.
There are also significant differences among the cited studies, including the dose, duration, and formulation provided to patients, so combining results from multiple studies is problematic.
In reality, there has never been a large-scale, high-quality study evaluating the efficacy of berberine for any health condition. Therefore, we simply don’t know how well it works, how safe it is, or whether it has any legitimate role in treating disease.
The Risks of Taking Berberine
Like all herbal supplements, berberine is not monitored or regulated by the FDA, which presents risks related to quality and safety, and all patients should be cautious when using an herbal supplement.
Reported side effects from berberine include digestive symptoms (including diarrhea, constipation, and upset stomach), alterations in liver enzymes, and potential risk to fetal health. It should therefore be avoided in women of childbearing age and during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Furthermore, berberine can impact the metabolism of other medications, leading to decreased efficacy or increased risk. Therefore, it’s important to understand that combining berberine with other medicines could cause real problems.
Why Do People Call Berberine “Nature’s Ozempic?”
The truth is there is no basis for this name aside from marketing and/or inaccurate publicity. Unfortunately, the social media hype is causing confusion and may lead some people to believe that Ozempic and berberine share similar ingredients or work in the same way—this is simply not true. In fact, the two products are completely dissimilar. Ozempic is an FDA-approved, proven treatment for diabetes that has undergone rigorous scientific testing and evaluation in large-scale, randomized studies. Unlike Ozempic, berberine has not been scientifically studied, and its impact on diabetes is unproven. Therefore, the only thing berberine shares with Ozempic is its social media hype.
Why Are We Just Hearing About Berberine Now?
While berberine has been around for generations, it’s only getting hype now due to recent, misleading publicity. On the other hand, Ozempic and its sister medication, Wegovy, are relatively new and have been receiving immense attention due to the powerful impact they’re having on diabetes and weight, garnering “game-changer” status. In relation to weight loss, Wegovy is the most effective medication ever approved for the treatment of weight, so the attention is understandable.
Unfortunately, availability and accessibility of these medications are greatly hindered by cost, supply issues, and poor insurance coverage. Therefore, people are logically looking for alternatives. However, to be very clear—berberine has no similarity to Ozempic and Wegovy and should not be considered a natural alternative.
Should Patients Use Berberine for Diabetes or Weight Loss?
In the absence of high-quality scientific data, at True You Weight Loss, we do not recommend using berberine at this time. There is insufficient evidence to suggest it provides a clinical benefit, and the risks of using an unregulated supplement are real.
Fortunately, there are numerous safe and highly effective treatments for patients with diabetes and obesity so there is no reason to turn to unproven alternatives.
Instead, you may want to consider consulting with a board-certified obesity medicine physician to discuss the many medical and procedural options that are available to support healthy, long-term weight loss. Whether you’re interested in a comprehensive medical weight management program or a non-surgical weight loss procedure such as the endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG), the True You Weight Loss team can help you achieve sustainable weight loss success that is backed by true science and clinically proven research.