Berberine is considered to be an alkaloid; it is extracted from the different plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been used for years as a natural medicine because of its anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects. Berberine was known to decrease the number of glucose produced in the liver, helps lower cholesterol levels, and improve intestinal health. According to some human and animal studies, taking a dose of 1,500 mg of berberine, given at 3 equally divided administrations (500 mg each), is equally effective as taking a dose of 4 mg of glibenclamide or 1,500 mg of metformin in treating diabetes mellitus (type 2). The effectiveness of these medications was measured by how well they decrease the biomarkers of type 2 diabetes.
Berberine was thought to work in harmony with some anti-depressant drugs and aids in reducing body fat. However, there are only few evidences available and a lot are needed in order to prove this claim so that berberine could be prescribed to those who could benefit from these effects.
The primary mechanism of action of berberine has something to do with its anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects. It has the ability to stimulate an enzyme known as Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase or AMPK while inhibiting PTP1B (Protein-Tyrosine Phosphatase). Berberine was known to have interactions when combined with other medications, and some of these interactions could be serious.
One research study compared Berberine’s with Metformin. Both of these medications are used to treat diabetes. The usual dose for metformin in treating diabetes is 500 milligrams (mg), taken 2 to 3 times per day for 3 months. It was found out that Berberine has the ability to control lipid metabolism and blood sugar level better than metformin. Researchers in the study also reported that berberine can be considered as a potent oral hypoglycemic agent.
According to a physician named Dr. Julian Whitaker, berberine has promising therapeutic effects on type 2 diabetes (type 2 DM), hypertension, and hyperlipidemia without having any serious negative effects. Berberine could benefit people with type 2 diabetes by activating the AMPK (Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase) which leads to:
An animal study using rats that were fed with high-cholesterol, high-fat diet showed that berberine has the ability to significantly decrease cholesterol levels. A cholesterol study conducted on humans last 2012 showed that taking three 500 mg dosages of berberine a day for up to 12 weeks could help lower cholesterol levels better than ezetimibe.
Ezetimibe is a statin that can be usually found in drugs that are used to treat hypercholesterolemia (or high cholesterol levels). However, a lot of individuals could not tolerate the negative effects brought by statins. Therefore, berberine could be a safer alternative for these individuals. Since berberine could function in different ways that statins, it can also be taken in combination with the drugs to produce a more effective treatment than using either alone.
One human study showed that obese individuals who took a dose of 500 mg of berberine 3 times per day for about 12 weeks lost an average of 5 lbs each. It was also found out that both cholesterol and triglyceride levels were reduced.
A separate study conducted to investigate berberine’s ability to inhibit fat storage and enhance the function of hormones like leptin, insulin, and adiponectine reported that berberine has potential clinical function in controlling central obesity and decreasing fat in the visceral organs.
Brown fat was known to be a heat-generating type of fat that burn energy instead of storing it inside the body. It is colored brown since it is abundant with mitochondria that directly convert the fat into energy in order to produce heat. Berberine was also known to play an important role in enhancing the activity of brown fat. This might have some important implications when it comes to weight reduction.
An animal study concluded that berberine limits weight gain, enhances energy expenditure, improves brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity in obese rodents, and enhances cold tolerance. Their findings establish a role for berberine in regulating the energy balance among organisms, which could have potential therapeutic implications for treating obesity.
When taken in its pure form, berberine is thought to be safe for adults. However, it is not safe to pregnant and breast feeding women and infants. Furthermore, the different plants that contain berberine were thought to have their own negative effects.
It is important that you should keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that it is the private manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure that their products are safe and could not cause any harm to the users. Some of these products contain additives that may be dangerous to people.
It is highly recommended that pregnant and breast feeding women should avoid taking this supplement since it could cause or worsen jaundice in infants. It could also lead to the development of kernicterus, which is a very rare type of brain damage that is due to high levels of bilirubin; its primary symptoms are Parinaud’s phenomenon (loss of upward gaze), athetosis (abnormal muscle contractions cause involuntary writhing movements), and hearing loss.
Experts do not suggest taking berberine in combination with the diabetes medication metformin. On the off chance that you are using metformin to control type 2 diabetes, berberine could interact with this medication and reduce its effectiveness.
A huge downside is the lack of evidences to support the function of berberine. Many of the negative effects associated with the use of berberine are not known. It would take some time before researchers could uncover the long-term effects of berberine in treating high cholesterol. Taking berberine without consulting first a doctor or any qualified medical professional could be dangerous. Keep in mind that there is not absolute guarantee that berberine would function effectively in decreasing your cholesterol levels.References:
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