There is an epidemic of high blood sugar. Normally, our metabolism converts blood sugar to energy for things like fun physical activities and thinking with our brain. When resistance to this process occurs, there are rising blood sugars and a situation known as “Insulin Resistance” or “Metabolic Syndrome”. If this situation is not managed early, the result is progressive weight gain and eventually blood sugars increase to the point of Type 2 Diabetes.
Metabolic Syndrome is associated with abdominal weight gain, fatigue, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Early findings include “Pre-Diabetes” when fasting blood sugar (glucose) is > 100 or the HgA1C test is > 5.6. Later, if the fasting blood sugar increases to over 125 or if HgA1C is > 6.4, the condition has progressed to “Type 2 Diabetes”.
High blood sugars, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes need to be managed aggressively. Poor control can lead to progressive weight gain, heart disease, nerve damage, vision loss, and kidney disease, all from abnormally high blood sugars damaging blood vessels over time.
Berberine is an herb that has been researched in those with metabolic syndrome tendencies. Berberine is an all natural plant “alkaloid”, as is caffeine. It is found in goldenseal and the Oregon grape. Once purified and consumed, it has effects within the body.
Note: Technically, berberine has been shown to inhibit an enzyme known as DPP-4 (an approach to treating diabetes) and to activate the enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which increases mitochondria and ATP production. AMPK also inhibits mTOR, a promoter of malignant cell growth and proliferation.
Research involving Berberine in humans and animals has shown the following…
- Supports lowering of blood sugars as well as the prescription metformin
- Smaller waist circumference and lower body weight
- Lowering of cholesterol by 21% and triglycerides by 35%
- Fasting insulin levels reduced by 21%
- Improved fatty liver and promoted “good bacteria” in the intestines
- Anti-obesity effect, suppressing new fat cells
- Increased fat “burning” in liver and muscle (fatty acid oxidation)
- Increased glucose metabolism (“sugar burning”)
- Berberine is being researched for its anti-cancer effects (prostate, breast, pancreas, other)
Blood Sugar Reduction, Cholesterol Control and MORE…
In humans, berberine seems to lower blood sugars about as well as the prescription drug metformin. But, unlike metformin, berberine also reduces triglycerides and cholesterol!
In 2008, authors in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism researched berberine (500 mg twice daily) for diabetes and high cholesterol and concluded that “Berberine is effective and safe in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia”. In that study, fasting glucose decreased by 20% (126 to 101), HgA1C levels decreased from 7.5 to 6.6 and “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased by 21% (126 to 99). Triglycerides decreased from 223 to 143. Further, weight decreased by over 5 pounds in the 3 month study compared to less than 3 pounds in the placebo group.
A second human study (500 mg three times daily) in the journal Metabolism in 2009 showed that berberine was about as effective as metformin in lowering blood sugars. Berberine lowered HbA1C from 8.1 to 7.3 in 5 weeks and fasting glucose dropped from 173 to 135 in only 2 weeks! Also, waist circumference was reduced. No drug toxicity could be detected in liver or kidney function tests. Diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain were unusual side effects that resolved after 4 weeks. A dosage reduction resolved any side effects within a few days. Although more research on berberine is needed, this journal article concluded, “It (berberine) is safe and the cost of treatment by berberine is very low….”
According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, “Berberine does not have any toxicity at present doses in clincial use.” Berberine has been associated with constipation and other mild gastrointestinal symptoms. Berberine causes only minor side effects in about 10% of people. These usually disappear over the first 1-4 weeks. A reduced dosage may be helpful if these symptoms occur.
There is no evidence that this product will cause blood sugars to drop too low. However, it may make other diabetes medications unnecessary, or it may reduce the dosage required of other medications, such as insulin or sulfonylureas. If you are already on diabetes medications, discuss with your medical provider whether your medication dosages should be adjusted or if this product is appropriate for you.
In research, 500 mg before meals, two to three times daily has been used. Work with your health care provider to determine how nutritional strategies can help support normal blood sugars in your situation. For my patients struggling with metabolic syndrome, elevated blood sugars, or fatty liver, I often recommend Metabolic Control, which contains 500 mg of berberine per capsule.
Remember, excellent nutrition and fitness plans should always be a part of your pursuit of health.
Best wishes of optimum health,
Rick Tague, M.D., M.P.H.
References: J of Lipid Research, Vol 47, 2006, p. 1281-8. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, July 2008, 93(7): 2559-2565. Phytother Res, vol 24, 2010 Metabolism. 2008 May; 57(5):712-717. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 296: E812-E819, 2009. World J Cardiol, vol 14, 2012 J of Am Dietetic Ass’n. 111(8): 1173-8