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Berberine is an alkaloid that is present in a number of plants, including:
Berberis vulgaris (barberry),
Berberis aristata (tree turmeric),
Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape),
Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), and
Coptis chinensis (goldthread).
This important plant extract demonstrates important benefits for glucose metabolism, maintenance of healthy lipid levels, insulin sensitivity, cardiac support, weight management, gastrointestinal health, immune modulation, and cognitive support.*
Berberine is an alkaloid that has been isolated from various anti-diabetic plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. When tested in isolation, it appears to be causative of many of the benefits associated with the plant. Berberine has various mechanisms of action, but tends to be known as an AMPK activator; alongside AMPK activation, berberine also exerts anti-inflammatory effects, benefits to intestinal health and integrity, possible synergism with anti-depressant medications, lipid and cholesterol lowering effects, andstrong anti-diabetic effects.
The anti-diabetic effects of berberine are the most well-researched, and are partly due to AMPK activation; PTP1B inhibition, which reduces glucose production in the liver, may also contribute, as well as berberine’s anti-inflammatory effects. Comparative research in both animals and humans (as well as one meta-analysis on humans) demonstrate that the anti-diabetic effects of 1500mg of Berberine taken in three doses of 500mg appear to be equal to those of 1500mg Metformin or 4mg Glibenclamide in terms of reducing biomarkers of type 2 diabetes. Berberine is one of the few compounds in Examine’s database to have human evidence to establish it to be as effective as pharmaceuticals.
Berberine is also sometimes recommended for diabetes prevention and therapy, as it does not appear to cause increased body fat as a side effect (associated with Glibenclamide) and may actually reduce body fat. It may also be preferred due to being seen as a “natural” therapeutic option for persons who choose not to use pharmaceuticals (fallacious thinking, but still a topic that needs to be addressed).
Additionally, due to the mechanism of action being AMPK activation, berberine exhibits fairly potent lipid-lowering effects (similar to Metformin), and via other unrelated mechanisms also reduces circulating cholesterol levels; these side effects make berberine desirable for reducing the risk of cardiac complications associated with diabetes.
There are also some less-proven but promising effects associated with berberine supplementation that may protect against diabetic cardiomyopathy and diabetic nephropathy.
Berberine, in short, is an effective anti-diabetes agent that also extends its benefits to persons who do not have diabetes but may have an excess of body fat and rising glucose, triglyceride, or cholesterol levels. Current evidence suggests that it is side-effect free aside from gastrointestinal distress if too much is taken at once, and comparable in potency to two commonly used pharmaceuticals in diabetes treatment (Metformin mostly, with some evidence suggesting comparability to Glibenclamide).
Berberine has many other mechanisms of action that are of interest but are less studied at the moment. At very low doses (1.6mg/kg equivalent to humans, but currently untested) it appears to augment the efficacy of many anti-depressants, possibly by a novel receptor class known as sigma receptors (which are actually the molecular target of the hallucinogen DMT, but berberine is unlikely to cause any trips). It is neuroprotective if taken prior to neurological stressors (although some evidence suggests it should not be used in a rehabilitative manner).
It can enhance glucose and lipid uptake into fat cells while simultaneously suppressing their proliferation, which exerts theoretically powerful anti-obesity effects; currently only two studies have reported fat mass changes over time with berberine, and the amount of fat loss seen over 12 weeks with 1500mg Berberine ranged from 3.6-13% of total body weight. It does appear to work in humans, but the magnitude of benefit is not yet ascertained. Additionally, it might attenuate some fat-burning effects despite these anti-obesity effects, although this has not yet been demonstrated in a living model (berberine may attenuate the rate of weight gain without conferring much inherent weight-loss benefit).
Berberine can also reverse insulin resistance on muscle cells and promote both glucose and lipid uptake into the muscle cells. Unfortunately, the mechanism of action that mediates this (AMPK activation) also appears to suppress muscle growth and may actually reduce muscle mass according to one rodent study. Genetically ablating one protein (atrogin-1) reverses this suppression of muscle growth, and thus berberine has potential to be a potent body recomposition agent, pending future research. The interactions with exercise are unknown, but it is theoretically possible that resistance training or contracting muscle tissues can attenuate or reverse these losses.
ALLERGY WARNING: This product is contraindicated in an individual with a history of hypersensitivity to any of its ingredients.
PURITY: This product does not contain wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy, egg, dairy products, or artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or artificial flavors. This product also does not contain lactose, palmitic acid, magnesium stearate, or stearic acid.
PREGNANCY WARNING: If pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive, do not use this product.
INTERACTIONS: Has been shown to decrease the activity of the cytochrome p450 (CYP) enzymes CYP2D6, CYP2C9, and CYP3A4.