Berberine dietary supplements have been nicknamed 'nature's Ozempic,' but is it a fad?

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Friday, June 23, 2023
Berberine have been nicknamed 'nature's Ozempic,' but is it a fad?
Berberine, an over-the-counter dietary supplement nicknamed "nature's Ozempic," is being used for weight loss and to lower blood sugar.

A natural compound once used by ancient healers may have used berberine to help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure is making a modern-day comeback.

The boost in plant-based berberine sales is being driven by the popular, but pricey drugs being used for weight loss. Can this herb live up to hype?

If you look berberine dietary supplements online, you will find that the bottles claim the pills can help with weight loss, lower blood sugar and more.

But some doctors say nature's Ozempic, it is not.

"Nature's Ozempic is likely an overstatement. I would say that it is more akin to nature's metformin," said Dr. Lydia Alexander, president-elect of the Obesity Medicine Association and Chief Medical Officer for Enara Health, a technology-powered personalized weight loss program.

Metformin, a diabetes drug, lowers blood sugar levels by improving how the body handles insulin.

Alexander said clinical trials comparing metformin to berberine suggests the supplement works in the same way.

"It was seen in these small studies of 30 to 40 patients to be as effective, if not even a bit more effective or potent, than Metformin in decreasing blood sugar," she said.

Berberine also decreases the absorption of carbohydrates, which also contributes to weight loss, but just how much? Studies show metformin can decrease body weight about 3% to 4%. Short-term studies show after 3 months, berberine may do the same.

"Now, that's not enough for it to be considered a weight loss medication, but certainly in some people I've seen it have a more pronounced effect. And in others, not very much of an effect," Alexander said.

Potential side effects include diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and gas.

Always talk to your doctor before you start any supplement because it may interact with drugs you already take. Experts say you should skip berberine if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Unlike Ozempic and metformin, which undergo rigorous testing, dietary supplements aren't regulated or approved by the FDA. So, your best bet for purity is to see if a product has been certified.

"If you see a GMP, USP or an NSF label on it, it means that one of these third parties has evaluated it and put it through testing," Alexander said.