Drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro, have been dominating the weight-loss conversation for months. But now, there’s a new name getting thrown around: Berberine. It’s a herbal supplement that has recently earned the nickname “nature’s Ozempic” because of its supposed weight-loss capabilities. But is it safe? We asked Jordan Hill, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Top Nutrition Coaching, for answers.
What is berberine?
Berberine is a chemical found in certain plants like barberry and goldenseal that’s long been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine. But berberine supplements recently became popular on social media for its ties to weight loss. Some research suggests that berberine may…
Curb your appetite
Improve blood sugar levels
Reduce high blood pressure
Help treat diabetes
Help treat PCOS
Does berberine help with weight loss?
It’s possible, but “it would be considered an indirect way to cause weight loss,” says Hill. She explains that some research shows that berberine may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose production, which could contribute to weight loss. Berberine is also thought to activate an enzyme called AMPK, which helps regulate your metabolism and control how your body uses energy.
However, there’s reportedly not enough research to say how effective berberine is for weight loss in humans (most of the existing research is limited). And Hill says that drugs like Ozempic “have undergone rigorous clinical trials and regulatory approvals. Berberine has not.” Though it’s worth noting that many people are using Ozempic and similar drugs for off-label use, and some experts have warned against using them for reasons other than to help treat certain medical conditions (such as diabetes or certain heart conditions).
Are there any side effects of berberine?
Just like any medication or supplement, berberine comes with potential side effects, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and gas.
A doctor should be your first stop before starting any new supplement, including berberine, says Hill. That’s especially important if you’re taking certain medications for things such as blood pressure because mixing the supplement with your meds could cause an adverse effect. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, go ahead and add berberine to the list of supplements and medications to skip — there’s not enough research on its effects on pregnant and breastfeeding women, says Hill.
Keep in mind that dietary supplements aren’t regulated or approved by the FDA. So consider that another reason to run it by a health care provider. If a doc gives you the green light to try berberine, ask them for their best recommendation. Hill also recommends looking for berberine that has a third-party-tested logo, such as ConsumberLab or NSF International, on the bottle.
“Nature’s Ozempic” may sound like a simple and healthy weight-loss tool. But experts agree there needs to be more research conducted on the supplement. So consider calling up your doctor before you head to your local supplement store.
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