Berberine is a bioactive compound that belongs to a group called alkaloids. The compound is extracted from a range of plants, in particular Indian Barberry.
With a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, berberine has been used to treat various ailments for centuries. These days modern science has confirmed that the compound has several benefits.
Reduces blood sugar levels
Various studies have proven berberine to reduce blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes – a serious disease characterised by elevated glucose levels, either caused by lack of insulin or insulin resistance.
These studies show that the compound works in different ways, including:
- It can decrease insulin resistance, making insulin more effective at lowering blood sugar.
- It can also help the body break down sugars inside the cells by increasing glycolysis.
- Reduces sugar production in the liver.
- Slows the breakdown of carbohydrates and increases the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
May help with weight loss
Some studies show that berberine could be beneficial as a weight loss supplement. One twelve week study found when taking 500mg of berberine 3 x a day, obese individuals lost about five pounds of weight, on average.
Another study of participants with metabolic syndrome showed they dropped their BMI levels from 31.5 to 27.4 after taking 500mg of berberine 3 x a day for three months.
Berberine & PCOS
PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is hormonal disorder that affects approximately 3-10% of women of reproductive-age. Common symptoms include excess insulin, increased levels of male hormones, irregular periods and infertility.
Berberine is a herbal treatment commonly used to help ease PCOS symptoms.
As previously mentioned, the compound has the ability to decrease insulin resistance – a common symptom suffered by up to 75% of people with PCOS. Research suggests berberine may increase the body’s production of certain compounds that are responsible for assisting carb metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Excess body fat is another characteristic of PCOS that may be managed by berberine. The tendency to accumulate excess body fat in people with PCOS is thought to be caused by a combination of increased male hormone levels and insulin resistance.
A small study found that berberine was more effective at weight management and reducing male hormone levels than metformin, although more research is needed.