Nutrition

Berberine (Natures Ozempic): Can the Supplement Help You Lose Weight?

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The natural dietary supplement berberine is gaining popularity on social media for its slimming effects. Simonkr/Getty Images
  • A supplement known as berberine is hailed as natures Ozempic due to its weight loss effects.
  • Berberine activates a gene known as the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and also reduces the release of glucagon.
  • Studies show that supplementing with berberine can help with weight loss.
  • Berberine has many side effects such as nausea and vomiting and is unsafe to use with many medications.

A dietary supplement called berberine is gaining momentum on social media for its weight-loss effects, with some even calling it natures Ozempic.

Ozempic, a drug intended for use as a type 2 diabetes treatment, has recently become a popular weight loss aid. However, it has a long list of side effects, and demand for the drug has caused supply problems, resulting in shortages for people with diabetes.

Now, internet users are claiming that berberine can mimic the effects of popular weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy. So, is berberine a better alternative?

Here, we explore what you need to know about berberine, especially when using it as a weight loss aid.

Berberine is a naturally occurring compound found in plants such as barberry, goldenseal, tree turmeric, and Oregon grape. It is linked to many health benefits, including weight loss, and is usually available in supplement form.

While it doesn’t have a complete nutritional profile like vitamins or minerals, berberine has been studied for its potential benefits in managing blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing obesity, supporting cardiovascular health and in reducing inflammation, says registered nutritionist Helen Perks.

It exhibits various biological activities and has been shown to have pharmacological effects such as dilating blood vessels, reducing blood pressure, regulating immunity, inducing penile erection, inhibition of inflammation, and treating cancer , explains.

While berberine is available over the counter, some practitioners prescribe it for weight loss, especially for those with insulin resistance, as is the case with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Berberine may have been dubbed Natures Ozempic online due to its weight loss effects, but the two are significantly different.

While both berberine and GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic and Wegovy have some effects on weight, they work through different mechanisms, Perks explains. GLP-1 agonists mimic the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which helps reduce food intake and appetite through increased insulin secretion, suppression of glucagon secretion and the deceleration of gastric emptying.

On the other hand, the weight-loss effects of berberines are thought to be mediated through several pathways, such as AMPK activation and improved insulin sensitivity, Perks speculates.

Jane Mostowfi, nutritionist and founder of The Therapeutic Kitchen, explains it in more detail.

He says berberine activates a pathway in the body called AMPK. This pathway includes genes such as PGC-1 which is known as the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and other genes regulating fat and energy metabolism.

In turn, AMPK activation increases cellular glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity.

Mostowfi also says berberine increases insulin release and reduces the release of glucagon, both of which are beneficial for weight management.

The weight loss effects of Ozempic are well documented.

In clinical trialspatients who received a 2.4-milligram dose of semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic, lost an average of 6 percent of their weight after 12 weeks and 12 percent of their weight after 28 weeks.

Is berberine just as effective?

Research shows us that berberine can improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, and reduce triglycerides and so-called bad cholesterol, particularly in those with type 2 diabetes. All very helpful when trying to reach our optimal healthy weight, says Mostowfi.

A study conducted in 2012 found that taking 500 milligrams of berberine three times a day caused an average weight loss of about 5 pounds and helped participants lose 3.6 percent of their body fat.

Meanwhile, a revision of 12 studies in 2020 found that supplementing with berberine led to significant reductions in body weight, body mass index and belly fat.

So, berberine or Ozempic, which do our experts say is better for weight loss?

I don’t think there is any reason to take one over the other as they are not comparable products one is a herbal supplement that has many uses but also quite powerful effects and the other is a licensed drug for diabetics and people who struggle with obesity under the supervision of a [health care provider]Mostowfi points out.

Meanwhile, Perks points to the lack of research on berberine’s weight-loss effects as a cause for concern.

Arguments against taking berberine instead of Ozempic and Wegovy include the limited amount of high-quality human research supporting its weight-loss effects, she notes. While some studies suggest potential benefits, many of the existing studies have been conducted on animals or small-scale human trials.

Mostowfi says there are many contraindications when it comes to the safety of berberine.

For example, you should never take it while pregnant or breastfeeding, nor with prescription medications including oral contraceptives, immunosuppressants, beta blockers, or antidepressants.

That’s because berberine can alter the level of the drug in your body which can be dangerous, Mostowfi warns.

Berberine should not be taken for more than 8 consecutive weeks, unless under professional advice.

Berberine also has enough strong antimicrobial effects on the gut microbiome, meaning that taken the wrong way it could kill all the good bacteria in the microbiome causing other gut-related health problems, explains Mostowfi.

There are several other side effects to be aware of as well, including:

Additionally, more research is needed on how berberine affects the liver and kidneys in humans.

Perks notes that it’s not always easy to determine the quality of supplements.

The quality and accuracy of supplement formulations can vary, highlighting the importance of working with a professional who can guide people in selecting reliable and safe products, she points out.

Another concern is that simply taking a weight loss supplement doesn’t address the underlying lifestyle habits that contributed to the weight gain in the first place.

The supplement alone won’t help you understand your current eating and activity habits, encourage you to make positive changes, or prioritize your overall health.

In other words, weight management is a little more complex than just taking a pill.

Reaching a healthy weight is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. We all have our big picture and personal pieces that we need to address and piece together to reach our optimal healthy weight, concludes Mostowfi.

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