The Benefits of Berberine
Lowering blood sugar, accelerating weight loss, and improving immune support are just a few of the benefits of Berberine widely accepted in academic literature.
Berberine is a naturally occurring alkaloid molecule found in plants of the genus Berberis, of which there are close to 500 species. Berberine is found in the stem, roots, and bark of plants and is extracted through a series of chemical processes.
The use of the stem, bark, and roots dates back to ancient times, with some records showing medicinal use up to 3000 years ago. There are hundreds of publications studying the effectiveness of Berberine, finding varying uses from blood sugar metabolism to immune support.
Dieticians, scientists, and physicians recognize the many benefits of Berberine because of its strong safety profile and effectiveness. The popularity of Berberine has grown over the last decade, with more and more people using Berberine as a natural alternative to prescription medications such as metformin.
Berberine has a Strong Effect on Lowering Blood Sugar Levels
In randomized trials, Berberine proved to be comparably effective in lowering blood sugar as the drug metformin.
While the exact mechanism of action is not well understood, Berberine is an AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activator. AMPK “unlocks” the uptake of glucose in muscle cells and prevents the creation of glucose in the liver. These two factors combined help the body reduce the free-flowing glucose in the blood.
Berberine upregulates the activity of protein kinase-C. Protein kinase-C increases glucose receptors and reduces insulin sensitivity.
Berberine Lowers HbA1c
HbA1c is a molecule that increases in the blood in connection with type 2 diabetes. Physicians and individuals routinely test HbA1c as a measure of the effectiveness of diet and exercise. During one study, newly diagnosed type 2 diabetics were given 500mg of Berberine before every meal for three months. Incredibly, the levels of HbA1c reduction in patients taking Berberine were similar to those using Metformin three times daily.
Reduction of LDL Cholesterol Seen with Use of Berberine
High cholesterol is linked to heart disease, obesity, and atherosclerosis. In the case of heart disease and atherosclerosis, the damaging effects come from high concentrations of LDL (low-density lipoproteins). In an experiment on mice, Berberine was effective in lowering LDL cholesterol while holding the concentration of HDL (good cholesterol) steady. While it is unclear if Berberine can replace more conventional drugs like statins, the benefit of taking Berberine for lowering cholesterol is clear. Berberine has shown effective in preventing complications of high cholesterol.
Berberine is an Anti-inflammatory
Cytokines are signaling molecules that cause inflammation. For example, cytokines let the body know where to send immune cells to fight infection. When these cytokines are overactive, the body is in a constant state of immune response causing low energy, increased swelling, and decreased metabolism. Berberine causes a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can lead to decreased inflammation by turning off the pathways for the immune response signaling molecules.
Berberine Promotes Weight Loss
Another beneficial effect of Berberine is its promotion of weight loss. In a study conducted on high-fat diets, Berberine was shown to lower obesity without a decrease in caloric intake. Scientists gave one group a given a high-fat diet, while the control group maintained a regular diet. The high-fat diet group significantly increased body weight and fat. After six weeks, scientists gave a subset of the high-fat group Berberine. Significant decreases in body fat were seen in the group given Berberine vs. the group that was not given Berberine.
Berberine was Used as an Antimicrobial in Ancient Times
The benefits of berberine do not stop at metabolism. For many years, Berberine has been used as an antimicrobial. Ancient cultures used the bark and roots of plants containing Berberine to produce antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths, and chlamydia.
There are different types of Berberine supplements, but most come in either 500mg or 600mg capsules. Manufacturers often use the bark of a barberry plant called Barberis vulgaris to extract Berberine with high purity.
A recommended daily dose is between 500-1200mg per day. Taking Berberine with a meal increases its absorption and effectiveness. To understand the effects of Berberine on your own body, take a single dose to start, working up to the maximum daily dose if necessary.
The long-term effects of using Berberine are not well studied. Some medical professionals discourage the use of Berberine for an extended period due to its impact on gut flora. Contact your doctor before using Berberine for an extended period.
Side Effects of Berberine
While Berberine is an effective molecule for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and lowering cholesterol, there are a few side effects. The side effects are part of the absorption mechanism of Berberine and the antimicrobial properties. Upset stomach, nausea, and constipation are common side-effects. Other symptoms reported are diarrhea and headaches.
Do not take Berberine if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. If taking other medications, first consult your physician before taking supplements.
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Berberine is an alkoloid present in a number of plants and is one of the most effective natural supplements available.
The people who stand to benefit the most are individuals with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It helps reduce blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and may reduce your risk of heart disease.