Magazine, Molecules

What is berberine?

Berbersome - What is berberine?

Berberine has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for more than a thousand years. The herbal molecule from barberry is still primarily used in Asian culture to treat diarrhea, inflammation and infections.

In the search for possible ways to extend the health span, researchers have only been investigating berberine's molecular mode of action more thoroughly for a few years. They discovered that berberine can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus are both very common in the population and pharmaceutical giants such as Novo Nordisk with drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy are trying to develop effective substances to combat them.

In this article, you will find out more about how berberine can support your sugar metabolism, what role it plays in longevity research and why a combination with phospholipids ensures improved bioavailability. We give you an overview of the study situation and answer the question of the dosages in which berberine has been used. We have also researched the truth behind the claim that berberine is the herbal and natural counterpart to Ozempic.

What is berberine?

Berberine is a naturally occurring dye obtained from the bark of barberry plants. It is one of the oldest and most widely used dyes and is used by us humans for many different purposes, such as in the food industry, textiles, printing and cosmetics. Berberine also has a long history as a healing agent. More about this later.

Occurrence of berberine in food

Berberine occurs naturally in some plants. Among them are the famous barberry, the root of goldenrod and the root of the Mahonia plant. In addition, berberine is contained in several other barberry plants, called Berberidaceae, which are found in some gardens. The common barberry is a popular hedge plant in Germany because of its thorny branches. Especially its red fruits stand out in summer. The fruits themselves taste rather sour. But please be careful: The plant itself, apart from the berries, is poisonous! The berries, on the other hand, are rich in vitamin C and secondary plant compounds such as the aforementioned berberine.

Barberry plants in nature.
This is what the popular barberry plants look like in Germany's gardens. Berberine is contained mainly in the berries.

Berberine as a dietary supplement

Due to the many positive properties attributed to the substance, berberine is also offered as a dietary supplement in capsule or tablet form. Apart from this, dried barberries are still available on the market. These can be used to refine dishes, e.g. rice dishes. In Germany, however, barberry is hardly ever used as a spice in the kitchen - it is more common in the Orient.

Berberine itself has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years - for example, as a remedy for digestive problems and inflammation. In addition, some studies suggest that berberine may help support metabolism, weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity, and support heart health. These properties are mediated by the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of the vital substance. However, berberine is not only said to have positive effects in terms of health maintenance - the molecule is also said to help with illness. According to studies, for example, in gastrointestinal infections.

Let's take a look at exactly how Berberine affects the different areas.

Brief disclaimer:
The use of berberine should be discussed in advance with your trusted doctor if you regularly take medicines or drugs, as the molecule (like so many herbal substances) can influence the effect of drugs.

Diabetes - not a rare phenomenon

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, 7.2% of Germans between the ages of 18 and 79 have diabetes mellitus, or in other words, they are diabetic. That's several million people in Germany and the number of people with insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes, is probably even higher.

If type 2 diabetes is present, the body can no longer lower the high blood sugar levels sufficiently. The hormone insulin, which transports sugar from the blood into the cells, is no longer effective enough.

Insulin Measure Syringe Drug
Medicine provides a whole arsenal of different drugs in the fight against diabetes. But you don't have to let it get that far in the first place!

Ozempic and Wegovy - the pharma response to the sugar epidemic

There are several approaches to treating diabetes. In the early stages, so-called "lifestyle changes" may be sufficient. This means more exercise and a change in diet. If this is not enough, medication that interferes with the sugar metabolism is added.

The drug Ozempic with the active ingredient semaglutide was developed for precisely this purpose. It mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) . This hormone causes more insulin to be released when food is consumed, making it a very effective medication for type 2 diabetes. At the same time, however, it also has an effect on the feeling of hunger by suppressing it.

Weight loss through Ozempic

The "side effect": people lose weight. And not too little. People have lost up to 20% of their body weight under treatment with Ozempic. Stars such as the Kardashians and Elon Musk have also used the drug, not because they are diabetic, but because they wanted to lose weight. As a result, there was incredible hype about the drug on social media. At times there were supply bottlenecks because Ozempic was prescribed so often "off-label" that it was no longer available for the true target group (namely diabetics). This is because Ozempic is only approved for type 2 diabetes.

Novo Nordisk then launched Wegovy, the same active ingredient, semaglutide, in a different dosage. This time, however, for a different indication. Wegovy can now be prescribed as a weight loss aid for a BMI > 30.

Berberine - the natural Ozempic?

In addition to the rush for Ozempic, Berberine was traded as a natural and inexpensive alternative to the drug, particularly in the USA. What's behind the hype?

First of all, both Berberine and Ozempic have an effect on the sugar metabolism - but this is where the similarities end.

Ozempic, with the active ingredient semaglutide, has an effect on the hormone GLP-1, while berberine increases the secretion of insulin via the so-called AMPK pathway. Berberine is therefore more similar to the drug metformin in its mode of action.

Berberine 500mg from MoleQlar
Berbersome combines the (sugar) metabolic benefits of berberine, chromium and zinc.

Why sugar metabolism is important for healthspan

Our body needs a lot of sugar every day to ensure that metabolic processes run smoothly. However, if the glucose in our blood becomes too much, it sticks to everything it can attach itself to, resulting in the formation of so-called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short. These AGEs are also found in our food - highly processed foods in particular contain a lot of them.

These AGEs can wreak havoc in our bodies. Vessels lose their elasticity and high blood pressure occurs. The small blood vessels in particular are affected, resulting in impaired vision and the death of fine nerve endings.

Doctors like Dr. Peter Attia like to describe an out-of-whack sugar metabolism as the basis on which other diseases are built.

But now for the good news: blood sugar metabolism is extremely easy to influence! The earlier you start, the easier it is.

Did you know? Healthy people can excrete up to a third of the AGEs absorbed through food via the urine. In people with diabetes, this figure is only around 5%. This means that significantly more of the harmful AGEs remain in the body.

Carnosine, a dipeptide found mainly in animal foods, has been shown in studies to prevent the formation of AGEs. The small molecule also has a positive effect on the protective caps of our DNA, the telomeres, and can protect the muscles of athletes from "over-acidification".

Berberine and the sugar metabolism

What effect does berberine have on sugar metabolism? Several studies on the use of berberine in humans were summarized in this scientific review.

The most important findings were as follows:

  • Berberine was able to lower the long-term sugar (HbA1c)
  • Berberine lowered blood sugar in a similar way to the drug metformin
  • Berberine lowers fasting blood sugar
  • Berberine can contribute to lower blood sugar 2 hours after eating
  • Berberine increases insulin sensitivity
  • Berberine lowers blood lipid levels
Berbersome capsules in one hand.
The clever combination of berberine with phospholipids provides a 10-fold increase in bioavailability compared to conventional berberine powder.

Berberine and sugar metabolism - a deeper insight

So how exactly does berberine manage to influence the sugar metabolism? According to this meta-analysis, there are two main ways:

Firstly, berberine stimulates the secretion of insulin via the AMPK pathway and secondly, berberine can make the cells more sensitive to insulin again. Both processes play a role in diabetes in particular. In addition to berberine, the trace elements chromium and zinc are also essential for the normal functioning of our sugar and carbohydrate metabolism.

Berberine and longevity

Studies show that berberine has a positive effect on the body and longevity by regulating several signaling pathways and longevity pathways, including AMPK,NF-κBand sirtuins.

Supplementation with berberine in C. elegans worms extended their lifespan by favorably influencing the aging process. This effect was mediated by the reduction of cell stress and the increase in gene expression, which are important for longevity. In another study on worms, berberine improved the stress tolerance of worms and thus also the lifespan and health span. The results of these studies have been replicated in other organisms such as flies and mice.

These many animal studies therefore paint a positive picture with numerous effects of berberine on the molecular hallmarks of ageing. Even if further human research is still required, the prospect of improved insulin sensitivity, a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation is very promising.

Quercesome (Quercetin capsules)

32,90 

1.154,39  / kg

Berbersome (Berber)

39,90 

786,21  / kg

Berberine in phospholipid form (bioavailability).

Bioavailability plays an important role with food supplements, especially with plant-based substances. Ultimately, the decisive factor is not how much of a nutrient you take, but how much of this nutrient is actually absorbed into the blood (via the intestine). This is known as bioavailability.

A bioavailability of 100% would therefore mean that everything you take of the substance is also taken up (absorbed) in the intestine. The decisive factor for bioavailability is the form in which the substance is bound. For example, magnesium can be present as magnesium oxide or magnesium glycinate. However, magnesium glycinate (contained in our QNESIUM complex, among other things) has a significantly higher bioavailability, meaning that more elemental magnesium is absorbed.

We can also observe the same effect with Berberin! With the innovative Berbersome complex from MoleQlar we therefore use high-purity berberine coated with a phospholipid layer to increase the bioavailability of the molecule. The result: 10 times better bioavailability than normal berberine capsules.

Dosages of Berberine

How much berberine is needed to achieve the health-promoting effects? This question is not always easy to answer. Various dosages have been tried in human studies, ranging from 100 mg to over 6000 mg per day.

If you look at the studies on berberine and type 2 diabetes mellitus, a daily dosage of between 1500 and 2000 mg appears to be the most effective. In order to develop the full effect on blood sugar parameters such as HbA1c, the test subjects had to take berberine regularly for at least 12 weeks.

For example, in a three-month study with a daily intake of 1500 mg berberine in type 2 diabetes patients, there was a 73 percent reduction in the HOMA index . This is a value for the extent of the body's insulin resistance.

Conclusion

Berberine is a natural molecule that has a particularly positive effect on blood sugar metabolism. Even though it is often touted as a "natural Ozempic alternative", the effect of berberine is slightly different. Especially with carbohydrate-rich meals, the intake of berberine could contribute to a lower rise in blood sugar.

Berberine also has a positive effect on various longevity pathways, such as sirtuins. In animal studies, this has already led to an extended lifespan.

Literature:

  • Navrotskaya, V V et al. "Berberine Prolongs Life Span and Stimulates Locomotor Activity of Drosophila melanogaster." American journal of plant sciences vol. 3,7A (2012): 1037-1040. doi:10.4236/ajps.2012.327123. link
  • Dang, Yao et al. "Berberine ameliorates cellular senescence and extends the lifespan of mice via regulating p16 and cyclin protein expression." Aging cell vol. 19,1 (2020): e13060. doi:10.1111/acel.13060. Link
  • Guo, Jing et al. "The Effect of Berberine on Metabolic Profiles in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2021 2074610. 15 Dec. 2021, doi:10.1155/2021/2074610. link
  • Lan, Jiarong et al. "Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension." Journal of ethnopharmacology vol. 161 (2015): 69-81. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.09.049. Link
  • Xiong, Ruo-Gu et al. "Anticancer Effects and Mechanisms of Berberine from Medicinal Herbs: An Update Review." Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 27,14 4523. 15 Jul. 2022, doi:10.3390/molecules27144523. Link
  • Ye, Yu et al. "Efficacy and Safety of Berberine Alone for Several Metabolic Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials." Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 12 653887. 26 Apr. 2021, doi:10.3389/fphar.2021.653887. link
  • Xu, Xinmei et al. "Therapeutic effect of berberine on metabolic diseases: Both pharmacological data and clinical evidence." Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapy vol. 133 (2021): 110984. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2020.110984 Link
  • Guo, Jing et al. "The Effect of Berberine on Metabolic Profiles in Type 2 Diabetic Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2021 2074610. 15 Dec. 2021, doi:10.1155/2021/2074610 Link
  • Cicero, Arrigo F G et al. "Nutraceuticals in the Management of Dyslipidemia: Which, When, and for Whom? Could Nutraceuticals Help Low-Risk Individuals with Non-optimal Lipid Levels?" Current atherosclerosis reports vol. 23,10 57. 4 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1007/s11883-021-00955-y Link
  • Dang, Yao et al. "Berberine ameliorates cellular senescence and extends the lifespan of mice via regulating p16 and cyclin protein expression." Aging cell vol. 19,1 (2020): e13060. doi:10.1111/acel.13060 Link
  • Fang, Xinyi et al. "Research progress on the pharmacological effects of berberine targeting mitochondria." Frontiers in endocrinology vol. 13 982145. 11 Aug. 2022, doi:10.3389/fendo.2022.982145 Link
  • Zamani, Mohammad et al. "The effects of berberine supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors in adults: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis." Frontiers in nutrition vol. 9 1013055. 14 Oct. 2022, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.1013055 Link
  • Twarda-Clapa, Aleksandra et al. "Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs): Formation, Chemistry, Classification, Receptors, and Diseases Related to AGEs." Cells vol. 11,8 1312. 12 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3390/cells11081312 Link
  • Scheijen, Jean L J M et al. "Dietary intake of advanced glycation endproducts is associated with higher levels of advanced glycation endproducts in plasma and urine: The CODAM study." Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland) vol. 37.3 (2018): 919-925. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2017.03.019 Link

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