Berberine: Can This 3,000 Year-Old Supplement Help You Lose Weight?

Berberine: Can This 3,000 Year-Old Supplement Help You Lose Weight?

We live in a time where we like to do everything naturally — we want to eatsleep, and smell the natural way. Unsurprisingly, this booming interest in all things natural has boosted curiosity about botanical supplements for fitness and weight loss. One supplement drawing some weight-loss buzz is berberine.

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What Is Berberine?

Berberine is an herbal supplement derived from the roots and bark of several different plants, including the European barberry, goldenseal, and Oregon grape. It has a bright yellow color and has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3,000 years. Berberine is an alkaloid, a group of nitrogen-based, plant-based compounds that have physiological effects on humans.

 

What Is Berberine Used For?

According to the Journal of Natural Products, over the years, berberine has traditionally been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. There currently isn’t enough conclusive scientific evidence to support its use.

 

How Much Berberine Should You Take, And Is It Safe?

Berberine is sold in a variety of dosages.

Some scientific studies on berberine’s impact on blood sugar and blood lipids have involved dosages of 500 milligrams two or three times a day, according to the journal Diabetes Spectrum. That doesn’t mean that dose is appropriate for you or anyone.

The Office of Dietary Supplements hasn’t set a daily recommended dose or a tolerable upper limit (UI) for berberine. The U.S. National Library of Medicine calls berberine “possibly safe” for short-term use in adults when taken by mouth or applied to the skin, and “likely unsafe” for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Berberine could cause blood sugar and blood pressure levels to drop too low in diabetics who are already taking medication to help manage their blood sugar and for those with already low blood pressure.

Always talk with your healthcare provider before taking any new supplements.

 

What Are the Potential Benefits of Berberine?

1. Weight loss

woman weighing herself on scale | berberine benefits

Two short-term studies have reported that berberine supplementation yielded mild weight loss in study participants.

One 12-week pilot study found that obese subjects who took 500 mg of berberine three times per day lost an average of five pounds.

In another study of 37 men and women with newly diagnosed metabolic syndrome, those who took 300 mg of berberine three times per day cut their body mass index (BMI) levels from 31.5 to 27.4 on average in 12 weeks.

This research is preliminary. More study is needed to determine the potential benefits of berberine.

2. Blood cholesterol

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, berberine might help support healthy cholesterol levels. Study subjects who took 500 mg twice daily for six months showed positive impact on total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

3. Blood sugar

woman taking blood sugar test | berberine benefits

Some studies indicate berberine may support healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range.

In a small study published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, Chinese researchers treated 80 people with metabolic syndrome using berberine. The scientists found that patients who took berberine experienced a beneficial impact on blood glucose and blood lipid levels.

 

Where Can You Find Berberine?

You can find berberine supplements online, and at your local health food store, co-op, and many mainstream pharmacies and supermarkets.

Anytime you shop for a supplement, consider these questions:

  • How is the supplement produced?
  • Is it processed without harmful additives?
  • Is the company reputable?
  • Are they making claims that sound too good to be true? Keep in mind that supplement companies have to abide by standards for their claims and manufacturing processes that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About

Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition and lifestyle reporting. Follow him on Twitter.