Berberine, a yellow, bitter-tasting plant substance, is extracted from various plants of the genus Berberis, such as bearberry, turmeric, and Berberis aristata. These plants have been used in traditional medicine in the Far East and Middle East for thousands of years for their antibacterial, antiparasitic and antidiarrheal properties. They were also used as pigments to dye cloth.
Berberine, now marketed as a nutritional supplement, is gaining recognition for its many properties and is used above all as an aid to losing weight and controlling sugar.
Berberine’s ability to lower blood sugar was noticed at the turn of the last century and it was then that it began to be scientifically investigated. Currently, there is abundant evidence on its properties as an active ingredient that mobilizes the enzyme AMPK (adenosine monophosphate kinase), which regulates the energy balance of liver cells, muscles, fat cells and the nervous system. But what is the truth in all this?
How does berberine help burn fat
When berberine activates the AMPK enzyme, the process of energy production begins through glycolysis, the oxidation of fats and proteins, thereby burning reserve calories. This is the same enzyme that is activated during periods of fasting, intense sports exercise, and stress.
This gives berberine several benefits:
- Berberine is helpful in cardiovascular health, as it supports the utilization of fat stored in tissues and circulatory vessels such as atherosclerotic plaques, and inhibits excessive synthesis of triglycerides and cholesterol.
- In addition, it improves insulin sensitivity and helps in the absorption of glucose. Hence the effectiveness of berberine against metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular and liver pathologies.
- Externally, it is used as a healing agent in the treatment of burns and canker sores.
Let’s take a closer look at these and other benefits of berberine.
Berberine for diabetes
The efficacy of berberine against hyperglycemia is supported by several studies. It improves the sensitivity of cell receptors to insulin and reduces inflammation, thus helping to regulate metabolic processes.
Berberine lowers fasting and postprandial glucose levels, as well as glycosylated hemoglobin, thereby improving the control of diabetes and prediabetes.
Berberine for cholesterol
Various studies support a greater than 20% reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels without the side effects of statins. This is because it increases the synthesis of the harmful cholesterol receptor protein and removes it from the bloodstream. It acts on cholesterol receptors in cell membranes, particularly in the liver.
In addition, there is some evidence that berberine may lower blood pressure by causing vasodilation and relaxation of smooth muscle of the walls of the communicating vessels. It is also antiplatelet and reduces the formation of atheromatous plaques.
Berberine for weight loss
Berberine has been shown to reduce fat and help with some weight loss. In a systematic review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, Chinese researchers concluded that it may improve obesity and hyperlipidemia due to its effects on cholesterol levels and insulin resistance.
Berberine inhibits the formation of new fat cells and promotes the use of stored fat.
Other Uses and Benefits of Berberine
In addition to the most well-known previous benefits, berberine may also have other uses and benefits due to its properties:
- for swelling. Berberine has great antioxidant effects which seem to be the reason for its anti-inflammatory ability and its beneficial effects on various pathologies. It inhibits the spread of oxidative stress and various pro-inflammatory substances in a variety of tissues.
- for the intestinal microbiota. Berberine increases the levels of bacteria that reduce inflammation and activate immunity. Hence its antimicrobial properties against a wide range of pathogenic bacteria, parasites and fungi. It is effective as an antidiarrheal.
- for state of mind. Clinical studies are ongoing on the antidepressant action of berberine. It appears to protect major neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine from enzymes that break them down. In addition, it is somewhat analgesic.
- for gout. It is being investigated for use as a natural remedy for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as it reduces cartilage degradation.
- for reproductive system. It is very promising against polycystic ovary syndrome and in fertility treatment.
What dosage of berberine is adequate and safe?
Berberine is safe for adults in doses of 400 to 1,500 milligrams per day for up to two years.
At these doses, no significant side effects are recorded except for digestive discomfort, which is avoided by dividing the dose into larger amounts.
Berberine can interact with drugs with similar effects.
Its use should be consulted if anticoagulant drugs, antibiotics, sedatives, against diabetes, hypertension, and all those that are metabolized by the liver.