People on TikTok continue to post about alternative options as the demand for Ozempic, the injectable diabetic medication that is coveted by many for its ability to induce weight loss, continues. Others laud other diabetes medications, such as Mounjaro. Some tout a so-called "generic" Ozempic available from compounding pharmacies. Some are promoting what they call a cheaper alternative, easily available in pharmacies or online: "nature's Ozempic," also known as berberine.
Berberine, a chemical compound derived from plants such as goldenseal or barberry, is often sold in the form of capsules containing a yellow powder. Since at least 2000 BC, the compound has been used by physicians to treat diarrhea. Researchers have recently looked at berberine to treat conditions such as hypertension and insulin resistant.
Semaglutide is the active ingredient of Ozempic. Berberine, however, is very different. Experts believe that berberine can have a positive metabolic effect on the body but it is unclear if this will lead to weight loss. Several limited studies indicate that berberine may play a role when it comes to weight loss. This is where the Ozempics comparisons come from. However, there are no high-quality clinical trials.
'In general, it is a good compound with some good evidence,' said Dr. Melinda Ring of Northwestern Medicine, a specialist in integrative medicine. She said that the hype online about berberine and its weight loss effects was grossly exaggerated. She said: 'Don’t think you will just drop pounds by taking this.
What berberine is good for you and what it's not
In the past 20 years, a growing body of research has shown that berberine may help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Some studies were conducted in petri dishes and mice. Researchers have investigated whether the compound is particularly beneficial for diabetic patients, especially when used in conjunction with other treatments.
Dr. Yufang Lin is an integrative medicine specialist and berberine has antimicrobial qualities. This means that it can help eliminate harmful bacteria from the gut, as well as improve the composition of the microbiome. These antimicrobial benefits may be a factor in how berberine can alleviate gastrointestinal issues.
Berberine has been studied for weight loss but the results are inconsistent and preliminary.
D. Craig Hopp is a deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. He said that there have only been a few human trials assessing weight reduction. None have been rigorous. He said that there is a semblance of plausibility, and that animal studies have shown that the supplement can lead to weight loss. However, there is a huge gap between marketing and evidence.
'It is an interesting idea, but clinically I don't believe it has worked out', added Dr. Lin.
Berberine can cause serious side effects.
Dr. Ring stated that most people will tolerate berberine well. However, there are some side effects. Even at standard dosages, people who take the supplement may experience nausea and vomiting, their blood pressure could rise, and their hands or feet may tingle. Dr. Pieter Cohen is an associate professor of Harvard Medical School and a specialist in supplements. Dr. Lin stated that Berberine could also contribute to uterine contractions in pregnant women.
Dr. Cohen says that while the supplement isn't dangerous in itself, he is more concerned about the possibility of supplement manufacturers adding another ingredient to the product, such as a stimulant, and this additive could be harmful.
Dr. Cohen stated that weight loss supplements were among the most likely to be adulterated or contaminated with prohibited substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that herbal supplements marketed for weight-loss are the most common type of supplement that sends people to emergency rooms, and patients report adverse effects such as palpitations and chest pain.
He said that if the manufacturer is trying crammed something in that pill that could lead to weight loss that was noticeable, then you are taking a chance.
Berberine's potential interactions with other drugs are particularly troubling. Dr. Hopp explained that berberine is a "perpetrator," meaning it increases the concentration of certain drugs in blood when taken with berberine. Dr. Hopp explained that mixing berberine with Metformin (a medication used to treat Type 2 Diabetes) can be dangerous because Metformin may act more powerfully and cause hypoglycemia.
As with all supplements, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't assess the safety, effectiveness or quality of berberine. This means that you can't trust the information on a bottle of capsules.
Dr. Lin explained that if patients think, "Oh, I'll just add this, because it's a natural substance, and it's beneficial," they can get themselves into serious trouble.