What Is Berberine and What Are its Benefits?

The main benefits of berberine are to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar, facilitate weight loss and prevent heart disease. We show you some of its other benefits and side effects.
What Is Berberine and What Are its Benefits?

Written by Daniela Andarcia

Last update: 26 October, 2022

Although berberine is related to the treatment of diabetes and the control of cholesterol levels, it has many other benefits too. It’s a chemical that can be found in various plants such as European barberry, goldenrod, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and philodendron.

It’s also known to help weight loss, improve cardiovascular health and reduce fat accumulation in the liver. Find out what berberine is, how it can improve health, and its possible side effects.

What is berberine and how does it work?

Berberine is a bioactive compound that belongs to the alkaloid group and is present in different plants, most notably the Berberis family of shrubs. It’s a yellow substance that has been used as a dye and has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine.

It has been shown that berberine can benefit the various biological systems of the body. This is possible because, after ingestion, absorption and transportation through the bloodstream occurs. Once in the cells, this compound binds to other molecules and changes them, just as a drug would.

Another function of this substance is to activate an enzyme found in the cells, which is called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). In general, this enzyme is found in organs such as the brain, muscles, kidneys, heart, and liver and is important in the control of metabolism.

Berberine plant.
Berberine isn’t obtained from a single plant, but other vegetables also contain the substance as an alkaloid.

Main benefits of berberine

Traditional Chinese medicine has used berberine in the treatment of many ailments. We show you what benefits science attributes to this important chemical substance.

1. It reduces blood sugar levels

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the patient experiences high blood sugar levels as a result of insulin resistance or lack of it. These high values are capable of damaging tissues and organs causing serious problems.

A study published in Biochemistry and Cell Biology showed that berberine can significantly lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Similarly, research published in Metabolism showed that it can be as efficient as metformin.

Another study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that berberine is able to decrease insulin resistance, increase glycolysis, decrease sugar production in the liver, delay the breakdown of carbohydrates in the intestine, and increase its number of good bacteria.

Finally, a study of 116 diabetic patients published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggested that consuming 1 gram of berberine daily on an empty stomach can reduce blood sugar by 20%. The same research showed that this substance reduces glycosylated hemoglobin by 12% and lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

2. Helps weight loss

Berberine is also linked to weight loss. A 12-week study of obese people showed that taking 500 milligrams three times a day resulted in a loss of more than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and 3.6% of body fat.

Similarly, another study of 37 men and women with metabolic syndrome showed that taking 300 milligrams of berberine 3 times a day reduced body mass index (BMI) from 31.5 to 27.4 in just 3 months.

For the researchers, the weight loss is the result of an improvement in the functions of fat-regulating hormones (insulin, adiponectin and leptin), as well as the inhibition of the growth of their cells at the molecular level. However, more research is still needed.

3. Reduces cholesterol and the risk of heart disease

A review of 11 studies published in Planta Medica showed that berberine can lower total cholesterol by 0.61 mmol/L, decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) by 0.65 mmol/L, reduce blood triglycerides by 0.50 mmol/L and increase good cholesterol (HDL) by 0.05 mmol/L.

It’s also capable of reducing apolipoprotein B levels by 13-15%, a substance that represents a cardiovascular risk factor. At the same time, it inhibits the PCSK9 enzyme, which generates a decrease in LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.

What other benefits does berberine provide?

The effectiveness of this compound against type 2 diabetes has been crucial to increase studies of this substance. In addition to those already mentioned, these are some of the other benefits of berberine, :

Blood sugar levels.
The best-known and most studied use of berberine is for blood glucose control.

Since the effects of berberine can last for several hours, it’s necessary to spread the recommended dosage over several intakes per day to obtain stable blood levels. The most common way is to take 3 doses of 500 milligrams, which is within the range used for scientific studies.

Side effects are limited to digestion problems such as intestinal cramps, diarrhea, flatulence, constipation, and stomach pain. In addition, if you are on medication, you should consult your doctor before starting the intake.

Berberine has multiple effects

Berberine is a bioactive compound present in different plants and widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its benefits include lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, facilitating weight loss and preventing the development of heart disease. In addition, those who wish to consume this substance as a supplement can ingest between 900 to 1500 mg per day.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.