The Preventative Effects of Berberine for High Blood Sugar and Metabolic Syndrome

You may have heard about berberine but wondered exactly what it is. Berberine is not a plant, but it is a botanical compound available from many sources, just as vitamin C is not a plant, but many plants contain vitamin C.  Research is just starting to catch up, showing that berberine fights tumors, fatty liver disease, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and more. But one of the reasons I like berberine is that it can address the combined diseases that contribute to metabolic syndrome.  It is estimated that 1 in 3 American adults has metabolic syndrome – a clustering of disease factors: high blood pressure, imbalanced cholesterol levels, elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar, and unhealthy weight. All these conditions are related to inflammation and oxidation.  The extra weight so prevalent in metabolic syndrome is influenced, in part, by our blood sugar levels and stress hormones, and of course, these conditions also cause inflammation and are influenced by inflammation. Berberine addresses each of these disease states.

Are you at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome? 

  • Extra Weight Around the Middle: In addition to a sensible diet and exercise, berberine can help you get back on track. In clinical research, berberine helped lower weight, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.  It also cut the levels of enzymes associated with fatty liver disease almost in half!
  • Type 2 Diabetes/Insulin Resistance/ High Blood Sugar: In a clinical trial, berberine lowered fasting and postprandial glucose right from the very beginning of the study through its entire three months. It also lowered A1C levels from 8.1 percent to 7.3 percent, reduced fasting plasma insulin by 28 percent, and insulin resistance by 44 percent, and dropped triglyceride levels. The results were like the group treated with metformin, a commonly used drug for type 2 diabetes that can cause terrible side effects. Berberine works in multiple ways to normalize blood sugar levels. First, it stimulates glycolysis, the process of releasing the energy from sugars so they are used up by the mitochondria as fuel rather than overloading the bloodstream or being converted into triglycerides which are stored as fat. Berberine also inhibits alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates in the intestines. That slows sugar absorption and reduces spikes in the bloodstream.
  • High Blood Pressure: For those with high blood pressure, berberine combined with changes to diet and exercise lowered blood pressure more effectively than lifestyle interventions alone or placebo. Scientific research shows that berberine acts as a vasodilator, opening blood vessels due to its effects on calcium channel pathways. In people with type 2 diabetes, berberine lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels more effectively than lifestyle changes alone.
  • Poor Cholesterol Balance: My opinion about cholesterol differs quite a bit from established practice. Our bodies and minds need cholesterol to function at their best. I think that cholesterol is not a problem, but that boosting HDL levels is a must. In clinical studies, berberine was found to help raise levels of HDL cholesterol and can easily be used in conjunction with conventional treatment.
  • High Triglyceride Levels: Although triglyceride levels tend to get lumped in with cholesterol levels, they really are different. Triglycerides are stored fats from carbohydrates, not from animal fat cholesterol from protein sources, and carbohydrate intake is what contributes to high triglyceride counts. Triglycerides are one of the primary causes of heart disease, so controlling their numbers is critical. In one clinical study, berberine reduced triglyceride numbers in just three months by 35 percent, and in another, berberine dropped triglyceride levels by an average of 50 mg/dL in the same amount of time.

Berberine is well known to natural practitioners and certainly to those who have appreciated the way it keeps them feeling healthy over the years. But it may be new to you. Berberine is a powerful natural medicine that can be one of your best choices for dealing with metabolic syndrome or any of its associated diseases.

Berberine can be difficult for the body to fully absorb. In fact, as little as five percent of every dose may actually get into the bloodstream. That’s why practitioners have recommended 500 mg, three times a day so that an effective amount of berberine is absorbed. However, there is a new plant-based system called gamma cyclodextrin that has been clinically studied to boost the absorption of herbs and other nutriceuticals by 8 times or more. This system is both fat and water-soluble and forms a natural cup, which surrounds the compound to ease its transit across the intestines. Using this system has been shown to increase the absorption of certain hard to absorb (fat-soluble) dietary ingredients, in some cases by as much as 8 times.


Michael Chase, MS, NTP

Nutrition Science and Dietetics

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Individuals should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The statements made in this informational document have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any product discussed is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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