Berberine – A Powerful Supplement to Combat Metabolic Syndrome

Fluctuating blood sugar, elevated cholesterol levels, increased inflammation are the primary reasons for many health issues. These risk factors are collectively called metabolic syndrome. A person is diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if they have three or more of these risk factors,

  • High blood sugar
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol and high LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Being obese
  • High blood pressure

A majority suffer from at least three of these conditions. People with metabolic syndrome are at high risk and need medications to control their blood parameters. Unfortunately, these life-saving medications often cause undesirable side effects. However, in recent years providers have started looking into natural alternatives to minimize the issues. It turns out there are very few supplements that can do the job for you, and Berberine is one among the very few.

What is Berberine?
Berberine is an alkaloid compound found in the roots, rhizomes, stems, and bark of several plants commonly used in botanical and Chinese medicine, such as goldenseal, Oregon grape, barberry, and Berberis aristata. It is an all-natural, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial plant nutrient used in traditional herbal medicine systems for centuries.

Benefits of Berberine

May help balance your blood sugar: Many studies have shown that Berberine has impressive effects on blood sugar and A1c levels in people with diabetes. In a study of over a hundred diabetic patients, a gram of Berberine a day lowered fasting blood sugar by 20%. There was a significant drop from 126 to 101 mg/dL[1] among diabetic patients. Researchers also found Berberine lowered A1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels, by 12% while improving blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In a systemic review of fourteen studies, researchers found Berberine is as effective as an oral diabetes drug, including metformin[2]. A 2014 study that investigated the safety and efficacy of Berberine suggested that it is a good alternative and has additive effects when taken with other blood sugar-lowering drugs[3]. 

Helps lower risk of heart disease: Berberine shows promise for lowering the risk of heart disease primarily due to its ability to lower cholesterol and body weight. Berberine intake at about 1 milligram per day for three months showed a marked drop in blood lipid levels. The total cholesterol levels dropped from 5.31 +/- 0.98 to 4.35 +/- 0.96 mm/liter, and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol from 3.23 +/- 0.81 to 2.55 +/- 0.77 mm/liter and triglyceride from 2.51 +/- 2.04 to 1.61 +/- 1.10 mm/liter[4]. Berberine also promotes better blood pressure regulation by improving endothelial cell function. Endothelial cells line the blood vessels like arteries, veins, and capillaries in the brain. Studies show that berberine increases insulin sensitivity and lowers bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels, boosting endothelial function[5]. 

Moderate weight loss effects: Berberine helps activate adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism. AMPK is otherwise called a “metabolic master switch” because of this ability. When AMPK is activated, it boosts fat burning in the body, which helps reduce fat deposits. A twelve-week study revealed that obese adults taking 500 mg of Berberine three times a day experienced an average weight loss of five pounds and 3.6% of their body fat[6]. Another study that observed the effects of 300 mg of berberine, taken three times a day among 37 people with metabolic syndrome, showed impressive results. The participants showed a drop in their body mass index ( BMI) levels from 31.5 to 27.4. In other words, participants moved from obese to overweight category in just three months of berberine intake. Researchers noted that subjects lost belly fat and improved health markers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels[7]. Researchers suggested that the weight loss was likely caused by the enhanced function of fat-regulating hormones, such as insulin and leptin.

Supports healthy brain function: Studies are emerging on the therapeutic effects of Berberine on cognitive health, especially Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative conditions. A 2018 study on the neuroprotective effects of cognitive impairment and hippocampal damage in the experimental model showed promising effects of Berberine [8]. A 2015 study revealed multiple positive results, such as enhanced brain-protective factors and pathways that counteract harmful neurodegenerative effects on the brain, which are promising[9]. 

May have protecting effects on vital organs: Berberine’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects[10] could indirectly benefit the function of vital organs like lungs and liver. A preliminary study found that Berberine reduced acute lung injury due to cigarette smoke exposure. Researchers found that pretreatment with Berberine significantly reduced inflammation in the lung[11] and reduced lung injury through anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers also postulate that Berberine protects the liver by exerting anti-hyperglycemic and anti-dyslipidemic impact, improving glucose metabolism and fat levels in the blood, which can eliminate the root cause of fatty liver disease[12].

If you are considering berberine supplements, here are a few points to keep in mind:

Preexisting conditions: If you have a medical condition or take medications for a specific disease, consult your doctor before taking Berberine to determine the correct dosage.

Pregnant/lactating: Berberine supplements are not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Diabetes patients: Diabetes patients should exercise caution when taking Berberine. Berberine supplements are efficient in lowering blood sugar. If you are on insulin or blood sugar-lowering drugs, it is a must to consult with your doctor to avoid dangerously low blood sugar levels. Similarly, people on low blood pressure medications should also consult with their healthcare professional before starting berberine to prevent a steep drop in blood pressure levels.

In general, berberine supplements are safe for long-term consumption and cause minimal side effects. The side effects are related to minor digestive issues, constipation, etc., which can be avoided by following the dosage recommendations and spreading out the supplement throughout the day or as recommended by your physician.

Best way to take Berberine

  • Spread out berberine dosage throughout the day for best results.
  • Always take it with meals or soon after meals to prevent mild stomach discomforts.
  • Taking Berberine shortly after meals helps combat the blood glucose and lipid spike that comes with eating a meal.

If you are interested in procuring berberine supplements, here are our top picks:

Metabolic Xtra by Pure Encapsulations: This formulation contains a powerful combination of Berberine, resveratrol, chromium, and alpha-lipoic acid to help regulate insulin function. The combination of these nutrients promotes better blood sugar and A1c levels and may help support diabetes. Since Berberine helps support healthy glucose metabolism, it enables the body to convert food into energy and helps improve appetite and fatigue. Pure Encapsulations Metabolic Xtra is made with hypoallergenic, vegan ingredients and comes in 90ct capsules. The recommended dosage is to take one capsule, 1-3 times daily, with meals, or as advised by your healthcare professional.

Berberine 500 mg by Integrative Therapeutics: The dietary supplement offers 500 mg of Berberine in a vegetarian capsule and supports a wide range of conditions. The primary use of Berberine is to stabilize blood sugar metabolism, controlling diabetes and heart disease. It helps improve insulin sensitivity, decrease cholesterol levels, and helps prevent obesity. Berberine helps activate adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK) an enzyme that sometimes called a “master switch” because when it is turned on, it regulates energy, cell repair, hormone imbalances and various other reactions. Integrative Therapeutics Berberine is available as 60 count vegetarian capsules. The suggested dosage is to take one capsule two to three times daily or as recommended by your healthcare provider. 

Berberine by Designs for Health: Designs for Health Berberine Synergy supplies high potency berberine combined with alpha-lipoic acid to help support optimal blood sugar and insulin levels, cardiovascular health, and liver health. The formulation offers 400 mg berberine extracts with 100 mg of alpha-lipoic acid. The combination of Berberine and lipoic acid offers impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Both nutrients help support health insulin secretion and sensitivity. Besides, lipoic acid is also a critical cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes involved in cellular metabolism and energy (ATP) production. The recommended dosage is to take one capsule per day with a meal or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

Although people with metabolic syndrome or have type 2 diabetes gain maximum benefit from berberine supplementation, it can also be taken by others for general health. Berberine’s outstanding safety profile and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties promote optimal health. Berberine consumption may improve general health, works as an anti-aging agent, and offers broad protection against chronic diseases. Keep in mind, besides taking a powerful supplement like berberine, it is also crucial to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle habits to reap utmost benefits.