Sep 07 , 2022
The rise in obesity and our aging population have led to a dramatic increase in blood sugar dysregulation, with metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes the most severe outcomes. This can stand in the way of our goals to achieve a healthy weight, creating a vicious cycle.
However, there are herbal remedies and supplements that can restore healthy energy metabolism. One of them is berberine, a phytochemical found in goldenseal, Oregon grape, and barberry. So what can berberine do for metabolic health? Here are five key benefits.
1. Improves Glucose Tolerance
In lifestyle-related metabolic conditions, high blood sugar from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise increases insulin output in order to pull the sugar into cells. Long-term elevations of insulin can unfortunately make cells less responsive to the hormone. As a result, blood sugar remains high, cells that rely on insulin cannot use it to generate energy, and metabolic syndrome or diabetes develops.
In a mouse study on berberine, the phytochemical was successfully able to reduce both blood sugar levels and insulin. Blood sugar was much lower at all times during a glucose tolerance test, including at its peak. Berberine cut insulin levels to less than half of that seen in the control group, whether it was measured as a snapshot or over time.
2. Protects Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is another of the world’s most common chronic illnesses. One early sign that you are at risk is elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. These increase your risk of artery plaques, which are made when excess cholesterol builds up in the blood vessel walls. High cholesterol can indicate inflammation and poor metabolic regulation too.
A clinical trial involving people with high cholesterol tested the benefits of berberine over three months. Berberine reduced total cholesterol by 29%, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 25%. Triglycerides fell by 35% too. Even better, berberine’s ability to lower cholesterol works through a different pathway to statin drugs. As statins’ mechanism of action also reduces cellular energy production, the unique properties of berberine may help you avoid the side effects of conventional treatment.
3. Promotes Fat Burning
Berberine may boost your metabolism too, helping you to burn unwanted body fat. This includes fat inside organs such as the liver, an important benefit as fatty liver disease is a common consequence of obesity. Lab studies on mice show that berberine could reduce total liver weight and liver fat, while other organs (which had minimal fat tissue) were unaffected.
Berberine promotes fat burning by increasing the function of AMPK. AMPK is an enzyme that helps you break down body fat and move fatty acids into the muscle cells. There, they can be burnt for energy. Research on other AMPK boosters shows enhanced weight loss among human volunteers, including abdominal fat.
4. Boosts Energy Levels
Fatigue is a near-universal, but unwanted, effect of aging and excess body weight. It contributes to the vicious cycles of weight gain and muscle loss, as we know that exercise is essential for a healthy weight and muscle mass, but can’t get off the couch.
AMPK supports energy production in several ways. Not only does it increase the transport of fatty acids into muscle cells, but it boosts sugar metabolism and raises the counts of your cells’ energy-producing centers too. These energy-producing components of your cells, known as mitochondria, decline with age.
5. Calms Inflammation
Inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of the immune system and contributes to many, if not most, chronic diseases. Early clinical trials show that berberine can relieve inflammation in the blood vessel walls, an issue now known as a contributor to cardiovascular disease. In fact, berberine was even effective in patients who already had cardiovascular problems.
Through enhancing AMPK, berberine may soothe inflammation partly by cleaning out old components of your cells. When cells lose their “recycling system”, the aging process speeds up as they cannot produce new parts, and their normal functions are interrupted. This applies to your immune system, too. A healthy immune system will only respond to infection, foreign bodies, or injury, and will turn off the inflammatory response once the threat is gone.
Overall, berberine can be a helpful addition to your supplement regime if you want to lose weight and improve your metabolic health. Through assisting in blood sugar control and energy production, you can break free from the cycle of poor metabolism, fatigue, and weight gain.