Claims that berberine is the “key to weight loss” and “Nature’s Ozempic” have spread across the internet and social media. Some TikTokers state it can help people lose weight the same way Ozempic can.

Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription drug for patients with type 2 diabetes. The active ingredient, semaglutide, has been shown to improve body weight in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, Ozempic is not approved for healthy individuals looking to shed excess weight.

The evidence does not support claims for berberine as the “key to weight loss.” Also, the safety of long-term use is unknown.

What is berberine?

  • Berberine is a chemical found in the roots, stems, and bark of various plants such as barberry, tree turmeric, Oregon grape, and goldenseal.
  • Plants containing berberine have been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat infections and diarrhea. Such plants have also been used for skin diseases, wound healing, metabolic disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in different parts of the world.
  • Today, berberine is commonly marketed in the U.S. as a dietary supplement to support healthy blood-sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as to promote weight loss.

What research has been done on berberine?

  • Several studies involving animals and cells have shown that berberine can help lower blood-glucose and cholesterol levels.
  • Some studies involving humans report similar effects in people who have cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Can berberine help with weight loss? Is berberine “Nature’s Ozempic?”

At this time, it remains unclear if there’s any benefit to using berberine for weight loss.

Some small studies, involving mostly non-U.S. diseased individuals, have looked at the effect of berberine on body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. However, based on the quality of these studies, the results cannot be used to inform use. For example, one review reported a weight reduction of 0.84 kg (almost 2 lbs.) in people with certain diseases after taking berberine for up to 18 weeks duration. When low quality studies are excluded, this reported reduction in weight no longer exists.

Regardless of whether the reported results from any studies can be trusted, consumers should be aware that claims of berberine as “Nature’s Ozempic” are exaggerated and are not supported by the evidence.

Are there side effects of berberine?

  • To date, no serious adverse effects have been reported for berberine. The most common side effects in adults include diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and stomach upset.
  • Long-term safety data on berberine are lacking. 
  • Berberine can negatively interact with some prescription medications and supplements.
  • Berberine should not be taken by anyone who is pregnant, nursing, or plans to become pregnant.
  • There is not enough information to know if berberine is safe for use in children.

Are Service Members allowed to take berberine?

Berberine is not on the DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement Ingredients List, and it shouldn’t cause a positive result on a routine military drug test. However, it’s important to note that weight-loss products sometimes contain hidden drugs or other potentially harmful ingredients. Without laboratory testing there is no way to know the actual ingredients (or their amounts) in a product, so check the label to see if it has been evaluated by an independent, third-party organization.

Keep in mind that dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease or condition. It’s important to speak with a qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement.

Posted 12 July 2023


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