What is Berberine?

And can it really mimic weight loss from Ozempic?

As interest in weight loss from Ozempic soared in 2023, the internet sought out other “more natural” ways to achieve the same lifestyle results (i.e. rapid weight loss)—without the injection. 

Enter, the berberine supplement. (To be clear, berberine was not discovered in 2023, that is just when it gained cult internet status.) This compound quickly earned the moniker “nature’s ozempic” even though that’s not exactly an accurate description.

So, What is Berberine?

Berberine is a plant-based compound that has been studied for its effectiveness in lowering blood sugar levels, supporting weight loss, and improving cardiovascular health. 

Historically, berberine has played a role in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used to treat a wide range of health concerns, including indigestion, infections, and wounds. 

In Western culture, berberine is increasingly valued for its studied ability to support metabolism regulation and blood sugar management.

How Does Berberine Influence Metabolic Health?

Regulates blood sugar

Insulin plays a critical role in managing your blood sugar by helping sugar enter cells to be metabolized for energy and alerting the liver to store blood sugar for future use. But if there is too much sugar in your bloodstream, the pancreas will try to overcompensate by producing more insulin until cells become resistant and unresponsive to it. Insulin resistance is often an indicator of pre-diabetes and diabetes. 

Studies have shown that berberine helps to regulate blood sugar levels by activating the enzyme AMPK, which promotes glucose uptake in cells to enhance energy utilization, thus increasing insulin sensitivity and production.

Berberine may also support healthy blood glucose through the promotion of Glycolysis, which is the breakdown of glucose into energy.

Supports weight loss

Berberine is not a magic weight loss pill, but when consumed to supplement regular exercise and a heart-healty, low-inflammatory diet, berberine may prompt a reduction in body fat by inhibiting genes associated with the formation of fat. This gene inhibition is especially notable for its prevention of visceral fat—a deep belly fat that surrounds your organs and is linked to serious chronic conditions, like diabetes.

While more long-term research is still needed to adequately convey berberine’s impact on body weight, a 2020 review concluded that the plant-based compound may play an indirect role in contributing to signification reductions in BMI.

Is Berberine Really Nature’s Ozempic?

Supplementing with berberine can lead to significant health improvements that relate to weight, like blood sugar regulation and visceral fat prevention. But no current studies indicate that berberine alone stimulates weight loss in the same way that Ozempic has proven in numerous studies.

Ozempic is a brand version of Semaglutide, which is classified as a Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, and was approved by the FDA as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Essentially, semaglutide mimics the  naturally-occurring GLP-1 hormone which is produced in the intestines following food intake. GLP-1 receptors are located in the brain, pancreas, and gut, and affect; these receptors play a significant role in cravings, satiety, and regulating blood glucose levels. 

  • Brain receptors: GLP-1 receptors located in the brain help to regulate appetite by increasing satiety. (Further research also indicates that GLP-1’s dopamine-regulating effects may also curb cravings and compulsions for food and substances.)
  • Gut receptors: GLP-1 receptors located in the gut slow the movement of food in the GI tract and increases satiety.
  • Pancreas receptors: GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas stimulate insulin secretion.

Initially conceived as a treatment for individuals with diabetes to regulate blood sugar levels, semaglutide (including its branded formulations like Ozempic) has emerged as a groundbreaking medication, demonstrating remarkable efficacy in facilitating up to 15% weight loss in clinical trials.  

While berberine can support weight loss, there are no studies indicating that it operates on GLP-1 receptors throughout the body in the same way semaglutide medications do. And claims that the two are one and the same are just another internet fallacy.

What about nature’s Mounjaro?

Like, Ozempic, Mounjaro is another branded injectable medication that is in high demand for its impact on body weight. Mounjaro is a brand formulation of tirzepatide, which is classified as a GLP-1 receptor and a glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). 

Because tirzepatide is a dual-receptor agonist, it may be a more potent and powerful weight loss medication than semaglutide. Studies have shown thatStudies have shown that tirzepatide may be a more potent and powerful, with studies indicating a higher average weight loss among tirzepatide patients compared to semaglutide patients. 

Because tirzepatide is part GLP-1 receptor agonist, it activates the same effects on receptors along the brain, stomach, and pancreas as semaglutide: appetite regulation, satiety, and insulin secretion. But tirzepatide also targets the GIP receptor, which enhances the feeling of fullness and supports balanced blood sugar levels. 

Berberine vs. Ozempic/Mounjaro: Which is Right For You?

Determining the best weight loss drug and/or supplement for you depends entirely on your goals. If you’re looking for help with blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol, and supporting diet and exercise-based weight loss, berberine may be a good option. (Although not every berberine supplement is created equal. Look for supplements with Dihydroberberine, a derivative of berberine that is more easily absorbed by the body.)

On the other hand, if you’re looking to overhaul your metabolic health and jumpstart weight loss, Ozempic injections can stimulate weight loss within a few weeks.

While diet and exercise are still the hallmarks of weight management, data-backed supplements and medications, like berberine and Ozempic, can help you curb weight gain, while also supporting your digestion, balanced cholesterol levels, and heart health.

Still have questions about the weight loss effect of berberine, and which weight loss medications and supplements are right for you? Book a complimentary consultation with our nutritionist to learn more about our a la carte weight medication options and personalized weight loss program, including medication, clinical consultations, and advanced body composition scans.