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Home » OSL Blog » What is Berberine? Benefits for Weight Loss

What is Berberine? Benefits for Weight Loss

December 18, 2019

Key Takeaways

  1. Berberine is a naturally occurring alkaloid with hypoglycemic, cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects.
  2. Clinical research confirms its potential health benefits for people with diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
  3. This compound has been shown to improve the body’s ability to process glucose and lipids, leading to fat loss.
  4. It also shows promising results in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome, memory problems, infections, and fatty liver disease.
  5. Berberine isn’t a fat burner, but it can help you get leaner by preventing the formation of new fat cells and restoring the gut microbiota.

Sometimes, diet and training are not enough to shed those pesky pounds. Think about it: you hit the gym day in and day out, eat clean and get enough rest. Yet, your abs are covered by a layer of stubborn fat

The truth is that weight loss plateaus are completely normal. As your body adapts to dieting and regular training, it becomes more efficient at using energy.

At the same time, your metabolism may slow down, especially after long periods of caloric restriction. 

One way to break through plateaus is to change your diet and workout routine. Supplements can help too. Berberine, for example, is clinically proven to facilitate weight loss and glycemic control. 

Considering Berberine

This natural compound is marketed as the next big thing in diabetes treatment. Berberine benefits also include fat loss and improved insulin sensitivity, according to the latest research.

Furthermore, this natural compound may help reduce cholesterol levels and boost cardiovascular health. 

But what is berberine and how does it work? Is it really effective or is it just a marketing gimmick? 

Below, we’ll break down the risks and benefits of berberine so you can make an informed decision. 

What Is Berberine? 

Have you ever heard of alkaloids? These compounds occur naturally in a variety of plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals. Some exhibit analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.

Others are used in the production of morphine, codeine, and other drugs due to their analgesic effects. 

Berberine in the wild

Berberine is an alkaloid that has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It’s found in goldenseal, Oregon grape root, tree turmeric, Coptis Chinensis, and other plants. 

Over the past years, this compound has been studied for its potential benefits in the treatment of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and metabolic disorders.

Some studies suggest that it may be effective against bacterial infections, chronic inflammation, hypercholesterolemia, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even cancer. 

For example, a 2017 review published in the Journal of Restorative Medicine states that berberine may improve carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and boost cardiovascular function.

berberine boosts cardiovascular function

In clinical trials, doses as low as 10 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight have been shown to improve cardiac contractility. 

As the researchers note, berberine benefits individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and heart failure, among other health conditions. 

Furthermore, it may lower the mortality risk associated with congestive heart failure. Its lipid-lowering properties are well-documented.

In animal studies, this chemical reduced total cholesterol levels by 29 to 33% and LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol by up to 41%. 

How Does Berberine Work?

Current evidence confirms the efficacy of berberine for weight loss, metabolic health, and blood sugar control.

This compound also supports digestive function and may relieve the symptoms associated with certain gastrointestinal ailments. But how does berberine work and what makes it so effective?

After ingestion, this alkaloid is transported into the bloodstream. Next, it enters your cells and binds to several molecular targets, altering their functions — as most medications do. 

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, though, berberine is safer and less likely to cause adverse reactions. This may be due to its “harmonious distribution” into those molecular targets, according to a review published in Science China Life Sciences

Man running on treadmill

To put it simply, this chemical works with your body, not against it. 

Once inside your cells, berberine increases the activity of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that regulates insulin signaling, metabolism, energy levels, and other biological processes. 

This enzyme is often referred to as a “metabolic master switch” and can be found in the cells of your vital organs, such as the liver and brain. 

Research suggests that berberine primarily targets adipose tissue, which serves as a source of fuel.

Basically, it activates and regulates the enzyme AMPK, which in turn, may improve your body’s ability to use stored fat and glucose for fuel. This may explain its beneficial role in weight loss and metabolic health.

Berberine — A New Weapon in the Battle against the Bulge

A growing body of research confirms the benefits of berberine for weight loss. If you’re ready to give it a try, make sure you understand what it can (and cannot) do. 

First of all, berberine isn’t a fat burner.

However, it can help you get leaner in other ways. It improves glucose and lipid metabolism, balances the microbiota, and prevents insulin spikes. These factors can lead to improved metabolic health and fat loss.

Berberine for weight loss

For example, a 2012 study assessed its effects on body weight and blood lipids. Obese subjects who took 500 milligrams of berberine three times a day for three months lost about five pounds on average.

They also experienced a 12.2% decrease in cholesterol levels and a 23% reduction in triglycerides. 

Researchers conducted the study on rats as well — and got similar results. 

These findings show that berberine not only facilitates weight loss, but it may improve blood lipids and protect against heart disease.

Furthermore, it may help in osteoporosis prevention and treatment, as the scientists note. Elevated cholesterol and low bone density are strongly connected.

Healthy Gut, Healthy Weight 

This alkaloid also supports gut health, which in turn, may help prevent weight gain. 

According to the journal Molecular Medicine Reports, berberine regulates gut hormone levels, protecting against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance.

It improves your body’s ability to use fat and glucose for fuel while increasing the action of fasting-induced adipose factor, a compound that promotes triglyceride deposition in fat cells. 

Man Eating Healthy for gut

Several studies conducted over the years indicate a connection between gut health and body weight.

The bacteria residing in your gut influence your appetite, food preferences, metabolism, and hormone levels. They also produce chemicals that increase satiety and promote fullness. 

Some bacteria strains, such as Lactobacillus, Bacteroides-Prevotella, and Bacteroides fragilis are associated with weight loss. Others, including Clostridium coccoides and E. rectale, have been linked to weight gain. 

These microorganisms influence your body’s ability to use food for fuel, which can lead to weight gain or weight loss, depending on the gut composition. 

Man Eating Healthy

The review in Molecular Medicine Reports suggests that berberine triggers positive changes in the gut flora. In animal studies, it reduced liver fat and visceral adipose tissue inflammation. 

This chemical may also restore gut permeability, leading to better digestive health and improved nutrient absorption. At the same time, it may increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria that promote fat loss. 

Furthermore, berberine has been shown to inhibit the differentiation of adipocytes and reduce fat cell formation. Therefore, it may help reduce body fat mass and prevent weight gain.

Berberine Benefits Your Heart 

Due to its anti-obesity and lipid-lowering effects, this compound may improve cardiovascular health

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 610,000 lives each year.

Men are at greater risk than women. A sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, and heavy alcohol use can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Healthy Heart

Since you’re reading our blog, you probably have an active lifestyle and try to eat clean. However, you may still be at risk for heart disease due to genetics or underlying conditions, such as type II diabetes.

This risk also increases with age. 

A natural formula, such as berberine, omega-3s, and greens supplements, may protect against heart disease and boost your overall health. 

Vintage Balance™, for example, provides just the right amounts of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids to keep your heart functioning at its peak.

Old School Labs Vintage Balance
Old School Labs Vintage Balance

It has no cholesterol or trans fats and delivers more than half of the daily recommended vitamin E intake. 

Berberine can help too. In a systematic review of 11 randomized controlled trials, this compound caused significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

At the same time, it increases HDL (the “good”) cholesterol levels, with no side effects. 

An older study published in the journal Atherosclerosis suggests that berberine may be an alternative to statins. These medications are prescribed to those with high cholesterol levels.

Testing Blood Sugar

Research shows that berberine may suppress PCSK9, an enzyme that binds to LDL receptors and prevents bad cholesterol from being removed from the bloodstream. 

This naturally occurring chemical also fights inflammation and oxidative stress, which may further lower your risk of heart disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

Berberine vs. Fat Burners 

Now that you know more about the benefits of berberine, you may wonder whether you should use this product versus a traditional fat burner. It all comes down to your individual needs. 

As mentioned earlier, berberine doesn’t burn fat. It facilitates weight loss by preventing fat cells and improving your body’s ability to process carbs and lipids.

However, it won’t increase your metabolism or boost your exercise performance as fat burners do. 

Fat Cells
Fat Cells Close Up

Both berberine and fat burners work. The difference lies in their mechanism of action. 

Let’s take Vintage Burn™, for instance. Our formula has thermogenic properties, so it increases your core body temperature and helps you burn more calories at rest and during exercise.

At the same time, it helps preserve lean mass and boosts your energy. 

Calorie-restricted diets often result in fatigue, low energy, muscle loss, diminished mental focus, and metabolic slowdown. If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know what it feels like.

You’re hungry and moody, your strength decreases, and you may not feel like working out. That’s where a quality fat burner can help.

Fat Burner Example

Vintage Burn™ contains green tea extract, green coffee bean extract, caffeine, raspberry ketones, and other all-natural ingredients.

Fat Burner Vintage Burn
Old School Labs Vintage Burn Fat-Burning Supplement

These compounds benefit athletes in several ways:

  • Increase mental alertness and concentration
  • Suppress appetite and promote satiety
  • Curb sugar cravings
  • Boost your metabolism 
  • Stimulate fat burning
  • Enhance physical performance
  • Help maintain lean mass and strength
  • Balance your hormone levels
  • Support thyroid health
  • Improve post-workout recovery time 

Green coffee bean extract, for example, promotes fat loss and improves glycemic control, according to a 2018 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition

Subjects who took 400 mg of this supplement twice per day for two months experienced a significant reduction in waist circumference and lost twice as much weight as the control group.

Green Tea
Coffee Bean Extract

Their fasting blood glucose levels decreased too. The study authors point out that green coffee bean extract may also curb appetite. 

Berberine may help you lose weight, but its effects are different than those of a fat burner. It can be a viable option for those who are sensitive to caffeine and stimulants, in general.

Is Berberine Safe? 

Few weight loss supplements live up to the claims. Not to mention the risk of adverse reactions, which can range from heart palpitations and difficulty breathing to cardiac arrest. 

Clenbuterol, for instance, is one of the most popular fat burners in the bodybuilding and fitness community. What you may not know is that it’s also one of the deadliest weight loss pills

Is berberine safe

Although it works, it can damage the heart muscle and alter bone metabolism in the long run. Short-term effects include high blood pressure, jitters, increased heart rate, and excessive sweating. 

Berberine has none of these risks. Most studies report few or no side effects. According to the review featured in The Journal Restorative Medicine, this supplement is likely safe and well-tolerated in therapeutic doses. 

Problems occur when you use too much of it. High doses may cause digestive distress, gastric lesions, heart damage, shortness of breath, and low blood pressure. Intravenous administration increases the risk of adverse reactions. 

Additionally, berberine may amplify the effects of certain medications, such as warfarin and tolbutamide. If you’re under medical treatment, consult your doctor before taking this pill.  

A recent review published in the March 2018 issue of Frontiers in Molecular Sciences discussed the toxicological effects of berberine.

Berberine in pill form

In animal studies, this compound caused diarrhea, nausea, muscle tremors, lung and liver damage, hemorrhagic inflammatory problems, and digestive distress. These side effects were not observed in human studies, though. 

As the scientists note, berberine showed promising results in clinical trials. This chemical is clinically proven to reduce glucose absorption, improve insulin resistance, and restore the gut flora.

It may also be an effective anti-cancer agent, although more research is needed in this area.

Other Potential Benefits of Berberine 

The health benefits of berberine go beyond weight loss and blood sugar control. This natural compound has been studied for its role in the prevention and treatment of several ailments, including:

  • Cancer
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Memory problems
  • Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Colitis
  • Leaky gut syndrome

More studies are needed to determine its effectiveness for these uses. However, current evidence shows promising results. 

Asking Doctors about Berberine

For example, a 2013 study featured in the European Journal of Pharmacology has shown that berberine may improve memory and learning due to its ability to restore synaptic plasticity.

Another study suggests that it may protect the brain from oxidative stress and enhance cognition. 

Berberine has also emerged as a natural treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This reproductive disorder is extremely common, affecting 3 to 10% of all women. It’s considered a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, insulin resistance, and infertility. 

According to a recent review, this supplement may be just as effective as metformin, a prescription drug for PCOS.

In clinical trials, female subjects who took berberine reported less severe side effects compared to the metformin group. Again, more studies are needed to confirm berberine safety and efficacy. 

Berberine lasting health

Berberine has also been studied for its potential role in cancer prevention. A review published earlier this year suggests that it may prevent cancer cells from spreading and inhibit tumor growth. 

This compound appears to be particularly effective against liver, lung, ovarian, cervical, prostate, and colorectal cancer.

Beware, though, that most studies have been conducted in vitro (a controlled lab environment), not on human subjects. 

Is It Worth It? 

Whole berberine benefits require further investigation, current research shows that it’s likely safe and effective.

So far, it has been proven to improve insulin resistance, alleviate diabetes symptoms, and facilitate weight loss. It contains cardioprotective effects that are backed up by science.

However, there is a risk of mild adverse reactions and drug interactions. To stay safe, use the lowest effective dose and only increase it if necessary. Read the label and don’t exceed the recommended dosage. 

Remember that your diet and workout routine matter most. As well as supplements, consider trying intermittent fasting or switch to the ketogenic diet.

Learn how to calculate your macros for fat loss, hypertrophy, or whatever goal you have set for yourself. 

What’s your experience with berberine and other weight loss supplements? Do you have any tips to share? Go ahead and leave a comment below! 

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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Old School Labs™ is the maker of premium supplements that carry on the fitness values of the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding. Old School Labs™ products do not hide behind proprietary blends, contain no artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors, and are manufactured using only high-quality ingredients.

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