The #Berberine Hashtag – everything you need to know about the weight loss supplement that’s taking the internet by storm!
Berberine, also known as “Nature’s Ozempic,” is a plant-derived substance that has gained popularity on social media platforms like TikTok, where the #Berberine hashtag has garnered over 75 million views to date. Influencers are promoting this supplement as effective for weight loss, attracting increased interest from the public.
Berberine is a plant-derived substance traditionally used in Chinese medicine and is available in the form of orange-yellow powder, typically in capsules or tablets. It is extracted from the roots, stems, and leaves of various plants such as devil’s claw and barberry.
Following the popularity of berberine online, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health issued a warning, stating that “there is not enough rigorous scientific evidence to determine its effectiveness.”
However, medical experts caution that there is little solid scientific evidence to support the use of berberine for weight loss and obesity. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health from United States has highlighted the lack of rigorous research in this field.
“There isn’t a lot of data on this subject,” says Reshmi Srinath, MD, Director of the Weight and Metabolism Management Program at Mount Sinai in New York. “It’s quite surprising that it has become so popular in the media, to be honest.”
While some studies suggest a slight reduction in body weight following berberine administration, these studies have been conducted on a small number of participants and for short periods. Additionally, there is a variety of berberine formulations and dosages, and the quality of this supplement may vary.
A review of 12 randomized controlled studies evaluating the effects of berberine on obesity concluded that the treatment moderately reduced body weight. The included studies were conducted over a short period, with a small number of participants, and weight loss was not measured as the primary outcome.
“There are few randomized controlled studies,” says Dr. Ivania Rizo, an endocrinologist at the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine at Boston University. “It seems that they all have methodological deficiencies that can lead to an increased risk of bias.”
Comparing berberine to medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy can be misleading. FDA-approved weight loss medications have extensive clinical studies demonstrating their efficacy, but even they can have significant side effects.
Another aspect to consider is the regulation and safety of dietary supplements. Berberine is not subject to the same scrutiny and balancing as FDA-approved medications, making it difficult to evaluate the safety and interactions of this supplement with other medications.
The use of berberine is also promoted for insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome, and even cancer. However, medical experts warn potential users that there is not enough solid evidence to support these uses.
“I caution my patients about weight management dietary supplements because we don’t have high-quality data demonstrating their efficacy,” said Katherine Saunders, MD, DABOM, an obesity expert and co-founder of Intellihealth, a platform dedicated to obesity management, via email.
Despite the lack of substantial evidence supporting the use of berberine for weight management and obesity, interest in this supplement seems to be growing. The hype surrounding this supplement is not surprising. According to the 2019-2023 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, approximately 42% of adults in the United States suffer from obesity, indicating a serious need for affordable medications to treat this condition. Berberine is available without a prescription and is much cheaper than most FDA-approved weight loss medications.
Comparing Ozempic, Wegovy, and berberine can be misleading. Another aspect to consider, according to specialists, is that the lack of regulations may lead some companies distributing this product to add stimulants to enhance the weight loss effect the supplement can have. These additives can interact with other health conditions or cause side effects such as anxiety, warns Dr. Almandoz.
Berberine has many side effects, and before resorting to this supplement, effective interventions that are currently available should be considered, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, instead of using a supplement that needs to be better studied and regulated.
While the phrase “Natural Ozempic” may attract potential users with its dubious comparison, the growing popularity of berberine could also be a manifestation of people’s desire for a quick solution, experts fear. “This is my fear,” says Srinath. “‘Take this medication, lose weight quickly,’ but at the end of the day, weight management is a long-term journey. It takes time, effort, it’s not easy, and there are no miraculous solutions.” Experts warn that weight management is a long-term journey that requires effort and sustainable lifestyle changes.
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