Berberine is an alkaloid found in the bark, leaves, twigs, rhizomes, roots, and stems of various plants. Historically it has been used as an antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, and antidiarrheal agent in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and as a dye for its rich yellow color. The excitement over this supplement comes from the studies that have shown it to work as well as some prescription medication.
Once you ingest Berberine, it is trans-ported into the bloodstream which then carries it to your body’s cells. In the cell, Berberine binds to several different “molecular targets” and changes their function. For instance, Berberine activates an enzyme inside your cells called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This enzyme is often referred to as the “metabolic master switch” and helps control your metabolism. But that’s not all.
Berberine works via multiple mechanisms:
• Decreases insulin resistance, making the blood sugar lowering hormone insulin more effective
• Increases glycolysis, helping your body break down sugars inside cells
• Decreases sugar production in the liver
• Slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut
• Increases the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut
Clinical trials suggest that in people with type 2 diabetes, Berberine can help reduce blood sugar as well as some prescription medications. In one study of 116 diabetic patients, 1gm of Berberine per day lowered fasting blood sugar by 20%, or from diabetic to nor-mal levels. It also lowered hemoglobin A1c by 12% and improved blood lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides.
This improvement in blood lipids is associated with an decreased risk of heart disease. According to 11 studies, Berberine can…
• Lower total cholesterol by 0.61 mmol/L
• Lower LDL cholesterol by 0.65 mmol/L
• Lower blood triglycerides by 0.50 mmol/L
• Raise HDL cholesterol by 0.05 mmol/L
Keep in mind that diabetes, high blood sugar levels, and obesity are also major risk factors for heart disease, all of which seem to be improved with Berberine supplementation.
Other possible benefits of Berberine include help fighting depression and other mood disorders, reduction in the growth or spread of cancer cells, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, help fighting infections, reduction of fat build-up in the liver, and extremely improved symptoms and reduced risk of death in heart failure patients.
Due to Berberine’s ability to reduce blood sugar, it may increase the risk for hypoglycemia in high doses. Too much at once can also result in an upset stomach, diarrhea, or cramping. This is why it is recommended to divide the standard daily dose of 1,000-2,000mg into three to four doses throughout the day. Berberine should be taken with or shortly after a meal to take advantage of the blood glucose and lipid spike associated with eating.
We like Healthy Living Solutions’ Berberine (60ct, $29.40). Each vegetarian capsule includes 500mg of Berberine, so take one capsule twice daily with or directly following a meal.
As always, if you have any questions or need help with determining what supplements would be best for you, please stop by the store and talk to one of our pharmacists or supplement specialists. We are happy to help!