Loving this content? Share it on your social channels!

berberine for weight loss - does it work?

Image credit: @Thorne

Disclaimer: This article contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Have you heard of the latest purported weight loss supplement, Berberine? If so, you may be curious about Berberine for weight loss and if this natural, less costly, and more accessible OTC alternative works.

Berberine has more recently garnered attention for its weight loss potential, even inheriting the nickname “nature’s Ozempic.” But does Berberine help with weight loss, or is it just another fleeting TikTok trend?

As a weight loss dietitian, I always look at every supplement with a skeptical eye. This is because “natural” does not always mean better for you.

Keep reading to learn more about Berberine for weight loss and if it’s worth looking into to support your weight loss goals.

What is Berberine?

Berberine is a compound found in various plants, including the Barberry shrub, goldenseal, tree turmeric, and Oregon grape. It has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat diabetes, digestive ailments, and to lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

These plants are generally not found in your local supermarket in the U.S. For this reason, most people take Berberine supplements. It is available over-the-counter and does not require a doctor’s prescription like some of the other popular medications Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro.

New research has uncovered Berberine’s potential to support weight loss; several of my clients have naturally become curious about it. 

Berberine has been tested extensively, but their studies on weight loss are not of very good quality.

Can Berberine Help You Lose Weight?

Berberine does have the potential to be a weight loss supplement. However, weight loss results from Berberine may be more indirect and a result of other factors. 

In a nutshell – taking Berberine on its own without changing your habits probably won’t lead to significant weight loss. But combining it with healthy habits may give you a slight edge.

Combining berberine with other habits like staying within a calorie deficit, exercising regularly, and improving sleep and stress levels increases your chances of weight loss. 

One of the biggest factors is Berberine’s positive effects on blood sugar and insulin levels, which may be linked to a healthy metabolism and weight loss.

By lowering glucose levels, i.e., blood sugar and insulin, Berberine may have the side effect of reducing body fat. This is because too much glucose in the body is stored as fat. So, lowering the amount of circulating glucose may reduce the amount of stored fat in your body over time.

Research on Berberine for Weight Loss

Berberine for weight loss

Image credit: @Healthline

Berberine for weight loss effects has been researched. However, most studies are small and are pre-clinical and clinical trials rather than well-designed research studies. This means more high-quality research is needed to confirm Berberine’s effectiveness for weight loss.

Let’s dig into the research, how Berberine works, and what the results show:

Study 1: One 12-week pilot study (i.e., a small-scale preliminary study) was conducted on those trying to lose weight. On average, participants took 500 mg of Berberine thrice daily and lost 5 lbs. They also lost 3.6% of their body fat. 

To put this into perspective, the weight loss was less than a half-pound a week, which is not an impressive result and is often standard with diet and exercise alone.

Study 2: Another systematic review of several pre-clinical trials on Berberine revealed increased brown fat in those taking Berberine. Brown fat is a type of fat in the body that is more metabolically active and, therefore, burns more calories. 

Study 3: Another review of over 400 clinical trials showed Berberine’s potential to support weight loss by reducing glucose levels. 

Based on this available research, there needs to be more robust evidence to show that Berberine alone leads to significant weight loss.

Other Potential Berberine Benefits

Berberine serves various bodily purposes involving metabolism, heart health, and blood sugar control. 

Activates an enzyme called AMPK

This enzyme helps support a healthy metabolism. It does this by helping with the energy balance equation in the body – i.e. calories in vs. calories out. 

For example, if our nutrient stores are depleted after not eating for a while, AMPK will break down glucose and fats for energy. When we don’t need energy and must return to energy balance, AMPK turns this process off.

It helps turn genes on or off

Berberine also may affect other molecules inside our cells, helping to turn disease-causing genes on or off.

Decreased blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol 

Taking Berberine has been associated with decreased blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in those with elevated levels. 

However, the researchers concluded it’s possible these results were not from the Berberine alone. They may be instead from the combination of other medications or supplements those in the study were taking.

Berberine Cost

Depending on the dose and brand, berberine costs between $25-$50 a month. The low cost of Berberine compared to prescription meds like Ozempic and Wegovy (which are in the thousands out of pocket) has lent to its appeal.

Since it is a dietary supplement not approved by the FDA, Berberine is not typically covered by insurance. 

Berberine Dose

A typical dose of Berberine for weight loss is 500 mg three times a day. This is based on the 500-1500 mg daily doses administered in most studies.

Safety and Side Effects

The most common Berberine side effects include constipation, gas, diarrhea, and upset stomach. There is also the possibility of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. If you do not have diabetes and Berberine lowers blood sugar levels, this can put you at risk for low blood sugar.

There are also potential side effects of long-term use, including liver toxicity, gastrointestinal problems, drug interactions, inflammation, and cell damage throughout the body. 

Because of these possible side effects, always consult your doctor before starting it.

Bottom Line

Berberine is an herbal supplement that may have a modest indirect effect on weight loss. Berberine for weight loss is likely most effective if you have diabetes, as getting your blood sugar under control with Berberine may decrease body fat.

Remember, there are no magic pills for weight loss, whether a natural supplement like Berberine or a prescription medication. Because of this, a healthy diet and lifestyle should always be the primary focus regardless of what supplements you choose.

If you need guidance and a push to improve your diet and lifestyle habits, contact me to schedule a complimentary introductory call. On this call, we’ll discuss your biggest struggles and goals and see if my sustainable weight loss program fits you.

Lastly, always remember to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider before taking Berberine due to the potential for side effects, interactions, and low blood sugar.

FAQs

1. Is Berberine worth taking?
While Berberine is associated with modest weight loss, it’s questionable if it results from other factors or medications being given simultaneously. It’s probably the most worth it if you have diabetes and need to get your blood sugars under control. If that’s the case, I would discuss this with your doctor.

2. How Much Berberine Should You Take For Weight Loss?
A dose of 500 mg of Berberine three times daily is typically recommended and has been studied in clinical trials.

3. How long does it take for Berberine to work for weight loss?
Based on clinical trials done on Berberine, most participants experienced some weight loss after 8-12 weeks.

4. Is Berberine Safe?
Like any supplement, Berberine may come with side effects like constipation, diarrhea, and upset stomach. It is also questionable how safe it is to take long-term and its effect on your liver and absorption of other medications you are taking.

5. How long can you take Berberine for weight loss?
Up to 12 weeks is typically recommended, as this is the maximum time frame in most Berberine weight loss studies. If you are wondering if you should take it beyond that point, always discuss this with your doctor, as they may want you to come off of it for a break before restarting again.

6. Berberine vs. Ozempic – which is better?
According to studies, Ozempic leads to more significant and long-term weight loss than Berberine. Ozempic also requires a prescription, so you are required to be monitored on it. This monitoring can help provide additional support and guidance on increasing its effectiveness.