There are a lot of people who are struggling with blood sugar issues in this country. To put things in perspective, 1 out of 3 adults have prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 of that number don’t know they have it. Without proper intervention, they could easily risk becoming one of the 29.1 million people in the United States with serious blood sugar issues.1 There are also several factors that can increase risk, including age, family history, dietary choices, and even certain ethnicities.
Blood sugar support is something that everyone should try to invest in, both through dietary choices and appropriate supplements. A great example of this is berberine. Read on to learn about where to get berberine and all the things it can do for you.
What Is Berberine?
One appealing thing about berberine is that it is a natural compound, found in several different plants. The most common source is barberry, but it can also be found in goldenseal, goldthread, and Oregon grape. Historically, it has been used as a dye, as well as a part of the ancient Chinese healing tradition, where it has been used to treat digestive issues and diarrhea. Recently, interest has grown in its other characteristics.
A major reason why berberine is so popular as a supplement is that it’s been shown to help with a wide variety of health situations. Among its many functions are activating an enzyme within cells called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which plays a major role in the body’s metabolism.2 A lack of APMK is one of the primary causes of metabolic syndrome, which is a root of several conditions, including elevated blood sugar and obesity. Berberine is one of the few natural compounds confirmed to be able to activate this important enzyme.
One thing to remember when we talk about berberine is that not all sources and delivery systems are created equal. To increase your chances of success, it’s a good idea to invest in supplements that give you the best quality of berberine and the highest chance of absorption in the stomach.
A great example of this is Enzymedica’s Berberine for Blood Sugar Metabolism. Using berberine made from barberry seeds, this supplement is enteric-coated. This prevents self-aggregation and formation of berberine crystals that can reduce absorption. It also comes in targeted delivery capsules to increase absorption. This is particularly important because it had been thought that the body had difficulty absorbing berberine. Later tests revealed that it is well-absorbed, provided you get it from the right source. However, it metabolizes so fast that some blood tests failed to measure it.
The Blood Sugar Question
Metabolism is one of the major factors behind berberine’s use for maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Several studies have shown that berberine can help significantly in reducing blood glucose levels.3 This appears to happen in several different ways, according to a variety of studies on berberine’s effectiveness. These include:
- Helping the body break down sugars inside the cells
- Decreasing insulin resistance (which causes the effects of insulin to be greatly reduced or neutralized)
- Decreasing sugar production in the liver
- Slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut
- Increasing beneficial bacteria in the gut
One nice thing about berberine is that it appears to complement other forms of blood sugar support. It can also do a lot to support other health areas.4
We mentioned some digestive benefits in the previous list, and there have been some studies testing berberine as a part of a weight management regimen. In one study, 37 men and women with metabolic syndrome took 300 mg of berberine three times a day over the course of three months. They recorded a drop in BMI from 31.5 to 27.4. The study authors believed that this may stem from the ability of berberine to improve the function of hormones that manage fat, including leptin and insulin.5 Its heart support benefits can also stem from its role with AMPK, which helps dilate the blood vessels and slows the release of free fatty acids.
Berberine’s potential may extend even further. Studies have shown that it has applications for heart support via potentially lowering levels of cholesterol.6 It may even help support proper mental health and liver health.7,8
Berberine’s versatility means that it’s great for supporting a variety of health functions, but it also means there’s plenty of opportunities to interact with other foods, medicines and supplements that you may be taking. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you want to know exactly what is going on. Before taking berberine or any other supplement, be sure to let your doctor or medical professional know.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Working to Reverse the US Epidemic At A Glance 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm. Accessed 4/10/18.
- Tillhon M, Guamán ortiz LM, Lombardi P, Scovassi AI. Berberine: new perspectives for old remedies. Biochem Pharmacol. 2012;84(10):1260-7.
- Chang W, Chen L, Hatch GM. Berberine as a therapy for type 2 diabetes and its complications: From mechanism of action to clinical studies. Biochem Cell Biol. 2015;93(5):479-86.
- Dong H, Wang N, Zhao L, Lu F. Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:591654.
- Yang J, Yin J, Gao H, et al. Berberine improves insulin sensitivity by inhibiting fat store and adjusting adipokines profile in human preadipocytes and metabolic syndrome patients. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:363845.
- Dong H, Zhao Y, Zhao L, Lu F. The effects of berberine on blood lipids: a systemic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Planta Med. 2013;79(6):437-46.
- Yan HM, Xia MF, Wang Y, et al. Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(8):e0134172.
- Kulkarni SK, Dhir A. On the mechanism of antidepressant-like action of berberine chloride. Eur J Pharmacol. 2008;589(1-3):163-72.