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Berberine, a dietary supplement derived from the barberry plant and dubbed “Nature’s Ozempic,” is causing quite a stir on the internet. Many users are singing its praises, attributing their weight loss success to this natural supplement.
However, while numerous people report weight loss, baggy pants, and lower scale numbers, the scientific evidence to support these claims is still scarce. Furthermore, some users also shared unpleasant side effects such as constipation and diarrhea.
Used for thousands of years
Berberine, a bitter chemical compound, is not a new discovery. It has been an integral part of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has been used to treat a wide range of conditions, from pink eye and itchy skin to hyperglycemia and urinary tract infections. However, we must note that the purported benefits of berberine have yet to be proven through large-scale clinical trials.
The supplement is easily accessible and affordable. For around $30, you can buy a bottle of 60 supplements from major retail websites like Amazon. The recommended dosage is one capsule before each meal.
This inexpensive plant-based supplement has garnered attention on social media platforms for being a natural alternative to expensive prescription drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, which aren’t always covered by health insurance.
It works differently than prescription weight loss drugs
However, it’s vital to understand that berberine works very differently from these prescription drugs, also known as semaglutide. Wegovy, a higher-dose variant, has been approved for weight loss for those with a BMI of 30 or more, or overweight individuals with a BMI of 27 or more, who also have a related health condition to weight.
On the other hand, Ozempic is primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, but is often prescribed “off-label” for obesity. Semaglutide triggers weight loss by mimicking GLP-1, a hormone in our brain that manages appetite and feelings of fullness.
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that berberine may aid in weight loss. However, large-scale peer-reviewed studies confirming these weight loss benefits are still lacking. Furthermore, the mechanism by which berberine works as a weight loss supplement remains a mystery.
However, existing research is expanding our understanding of this compound. A 2017 review posted on Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences reported that patients who took two 750-milligram capsules daily for three months experienced significant weight loss.
Another study published in the American Journal of Translational Research suggested that berberine might activate brown adipose tissue, fat cells that prompt the body to convert food into energy, thereby burning calories.
Other health benefits of berberine
In addition to weight loss, berberine appears to have other potential benefits. An analysis of 2019 in Endocrine Journal found berberine more effective at lowering blood glucose levels than a placebo.
Studies also suggest it could help manage polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that occurs when the ovaries overproduce a certain hormone called androgens, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and unpredictable ovulation. It has also been shown to reduce hemoglobin A1C, a marker of blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
However, despite these encouraging results, the scientific community remains cautious. Since berberine is derived from plants, there is a risk that people may incorrectly assume that it is completely harmless. Pregnant women, in particular, are cautioned not to take it due to the potential risk of brain damage to the fetus or young children.
Additionally, berberine might interfere with the metabolism of prescription drugs for diabetes and other conditions when taken according to the directions on the bottle. Its long-term safety is still undetermined, and it is unknown whether weight loss will be sustained after the supplement is stopped. It is also suggested that abruptly stopping Wegovy or Ozempic could result in rapid weight gain.
Common side effects associated with berberine include diarrhea, constipation, and stomach upset. These shared user experiences underscore the need for a comprehensive understanding and scientific scrutiny of berberine’s safety and efficacy.
The latest internet diet trend is indeed compelling, but until there is solid scientific evidence to back up the claims about weight loss benefits and safety, caution is advised. Until large-scale peer-reviewed studies are conducted to confirm its benefits and evaluate its long-term safety, berberine remains an interesting supplement with potential, but unverified, benefits.
For those considering berberine as a weight loss supplement, it is essential to discuss it with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized advice based on your individual health situation and potential risks.
Read more about the barberry plant
The barberry plant, scientifically known as Berberis, is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen shrubs to 15 m (3,316.4 ft) in height. They are native to various regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America.
This plant is quite versatile and is known for its attractive, dense growth habit often adorned with small oval leaves that can take on vibrant shades of orange, yellow and red in the fall. It typically blooms in mid-spring, displaying small yellow flowers. In late summer or early fall, these flowers give way to small red berries, which are sometimes used in culinary dishes for their tart flavor.
The berries of the barberry plant have been used in traditional medicine for centuries due to their high berberine content. Berberine is a bioactive compound believed to have numerous medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. However, as my knowledge ends in 2021, more research is needed to confirm and fully understand these potential benefits.
Interestingly, the plant also plays a role in the life cycle of a type of wheat rust (a fungus), which is a significant disease of wheat. For this reason, cultivation of the plant is often controlled or restricted in many regions to prevent the fungus from spreading.
Despite its potential health benefits, it’s important to note that barberry can be toxic when consumed in large quantities, particularly to children and pets. It can cause stomach pain, kidney problems, and make some health conditions worse. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement regimen.
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