While it is true that getting a healthy diet requires getting the most nutritional value out of every food we take, it is also important to know that it is best to go green to build a fit body and mind. There are, however, a lot of herbs and other organic-based supplements which are available and ready for consumption as they become popular throughout the years. Choosing the right one for us could take a lot of consideration and time to ensure its quality and appropriateness to our body needs. It is necessary to look into labels carefully to check the right nutritional attributes we need. One of the most powerful supplements which emerged in the market is the Berberine. There is so much to talk about this amazing supplement!
There are a few Chinese traditional medicines which have gained its fame in the field of medicines because they truly manifest wonderful health benefits. One of which is Berberine, an herbal supplement with a history that’s thousands of years long. It is an alkaloid extracted from various plants used in traditional Chinese medicine (1). This is a chemical present in several plants including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric (2). Researches reveal that this helps to treat everything from joint pain to weight loss to controlling diabetes in people with insulin insensitivity (3). Berberine’s mechanism of action is complex, but it appears to alter the way your body’s mitochondria generate energy, which might indicate why it’s helpful for such a wide variety of ailments (4).
5 benefits of Berberine:
- It helps fight diabetes. Among the natural supplements present, Berberine stands out. Scientists find a solid understanding of the specific cellular pathways through which it works to produce particular benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes (5). It specifically targets AMP-activated kinase (AMPK), an effector protein with a role in a wide range of energy production and utilization pathways. In a 2006 study, Berberine strongly promotes the phosphorylation of AMPK, which directly increases the AMP-to-ATP ratio in the cell and thereby stimulates glucose uptake, in turn, it has a direct anti-hyperglycemic effect that is highly relevant for type 2 diabetes patients (6). Laboratory studies involving rodent or cultured human cells find a number of possible mechanisms for the beneficial effects of Berberine on blood sugar control and reveal that Berberine leads to an upregulation of insulin receptor activity. Other research trials also show that Berberine’s antimicrobial properties may have favorable effect on blood sugar (7). It is also believed that Berberine may kill off certain intestinal bacteria that contribute to increased inflammation and insulin resistance (8).
- It aids in weight loss. Research suggests that Berberine supplementation enhances weight loss. In a 2010 study using mouse models, it states that Berberine may be effective for reducing the risk of obesity in type 2 diabetes patients and inhibits adipogenesis–that is, the generation of fat cells (9). It is also responsible in activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase or AMPK, often called a “metabolic master switch”, which is an enzyme inside the human body’s cells that plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism. AMPK activation boosts fat burning in the mitochondria (10). Berberine infiltrates the mitochondria and inhibits the chain of chemical reactions responsible for generating chemical energy and slightly inhibits the energy production process, allowing it to continue while slowing the maximum rate of nutrient conversion into energy (11). This leads to weight loss if continued at an energy deficit for a long enough period of time. Here, Berberine is used safely while still maintaining efficacy. A 2012 study shows that obese human patients lost an average of 5lbs over the 12-week course of treatment with Berberine supplementation (12). In a separate 2012 study, it shows that obese patients who took Berberine lost an average of 4 kilograms more than the patients who consumed a placebo (13).
- It improves cholesterol levels. Berberine is an effective natural supplements to lower cholesterol. Although little is known how Berberine works in lowering cholesterol, scientists believe that Berberine has the ability to increase the number of LDL receptors in the liver, which may help increase clearance of LDL cholesterol from the body (14). Dr. Hu Yueshan, Ph.D and colleagues from Avera Institute for Human Genetics, conduct an investigation on Berberine for its ability to prevent fat accumulation in obese humans and mice. In the study, it finds that treatment with Berberine significantly reduced blood lipid levels among the subjects and cholesterol levels decreased by an average of 12% and triglycerides by 23% (15). Another study also publishes Berberine as an effective natural treatment for high cholesterol (16). Berberine also appears to act on signaling pathways involved in making fats in the body and acts similarly to phytosterols by blocking absorption of lipids from the small intestine (17). It works to lower LDL cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme called PCSK9 leading to more LDL being removed from the bloodstream (18).
- It improves fertility. Berberine offers many benefits to women with polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS including improving fertility, assisting with weight loss, and lowering the risk of metabolic complication (19). It has been used for thousands of years in its herbal form to enhance fertility (20). A 2015 pilot study of 98 women concludes that Berberine alone may improve the menstrual pattern and ovulation rate in anovulatory Chinese women with polycystic ovary syndrome and can also decrease sex hormone binding globulin, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in normal weight polycystic ovary syndrome women (21). It restrains androgen activity which positively shift PCOS symptoms like acne and hirsutism. In a research from China and Canada, findings reveal that Berberine effectively opposes excessive testosterone production and “defective glucose uptake” (22). Researchers’ finding states that Berberine has a positive effect on metabolic syndrome, which is thought to be a cause of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (23).
- It reduces the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is currently the world’s most common cause of premature death because many factors that can be measured in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart disease (24). Berberine increases the quality of life and decreases death rates. It shows potential in multiple aspects of cardiovascular health, including arrhythmias and heart rate in rat studies and demonstrates a protective effect on heart muscle cells injured by the return of blood flow after blood flow restriction such as after a stroke as shown in a study involving rats (25). A comparative results seen in type 2 diabetes were found in the treatment of elevated blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and high blood pressure where it lowers total and LDL cholesterol, lowers blood triglycerides and raises beneficial HDL cholesterol (26). Berberine is believed to lower apolipoprotein B by 13-15 percent, another very important risk factor to reduce heart disease.
Final Thoughts on Bernerine
Berberine brings many health benefits which are proven by researches and studies. It can do a lot of wonders in the body and allows us to live a more comfortable life. It is important however to consult health experts when considering taking this supplement because, just like any other supplements, this may cause complications if not taken in appropriate dosage especially to those taking other medications.