Ozempic, a drug used to treat diabetes, has garnered attention from celebrities, social media influencers, and the general public for its off-label use for treating obesity and helping with weight loss. Now, a new dietary supplement has taken over social media platforms, like TikTok, for similar qualities.

Berberine, labeled “nature’s Ozempic,” was seen as a cheaper and more easily accessible alternative to the popular drug.

Like Ozempic, berberine is commonly used to lower blood glucose levels to treat type 2 diabetes. Herbal medicine can also be used for neurological, metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, derived from Chinese medicine and similar plants Caplis chinensis. Ozempic, which must be prescribed by a doctor, can cost over $900. Instead, berberine can be purchased over the counter starting at $10, which means anyone can get the supplement.

Savannah Crosby, 34, from Texas, uploaded her experience with taking berberine to TikTok, adding weekly updates detailing her weight loss and side effects from the supplement. Since uploading her, her videos have reached over 1 million views, with other users commenting on similar experiences.

Crosby, who has been on berberine for eight weeks, started taking the supplement for insulin resistance and the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Like others on TikTok who shared that Ozempic was way out of their price range, she turned to berberine hoping for the same results.

Side effects Crosby shared include headaches, constipation and diarrhea – similar to Ozempic. However, long-term use can have an effect on gut health and potentially increase metabolic disorders.

Although berberine is used to improve glucose control and insulin resistancethe supplement has not been approved for use in the United States to treat symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, doctors caution that just because a product is considered “natural,” doesn’t mean it’s safe.

We asked the experts whether berberine should be used for weight loss, the risks associated with appetite-suppressing drugs, and what to know before trying the popular supplement:

How berberine supposedly works

The metabolic system enables movement, growth, development and reproduction through reactions in the body that provide energy. Most people who develop metabolic syndrome have insulin resistance, making it harder for the cells to respond to insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels rise, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

It is said that berberine activate glucose activitythat it could improve insulin secretion and sensitivity in people, Dr. Anant Vinjamoori, the chief medical officer at Modern agehe told HuffPost.

“Berberine works on a molecular level by subtly hampering the efficiency of mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of your cells,” Vinjamoori said. “In response, your body activates a pathway that not only increases insulin sensitivity but also promotes the production of more mitochondria. This approach could be compared to jogging with weights, making the body work harder and thus increasing its metabolic capacity.

However, berberine’s use for weight loss is limited and it has not been approved as a weight loss supplement in the United States. Not only that, experts aren’t even convinced that berberine has any significant results. To compare the supplement, metformin, a different anti-diabetic drug used to lower blood sugar, is shown to have similar weight-loss properties.

The best inference we can make about berberine’s potential for weight loss comes from a similar compound, metformin,” Vinjamoori said. “Metformin has been shown to produce only 3 to 5 percent weight loss at best. hypothesis.”

The risks of the herbal supplement

Berberine has also been used as an antimicrobial to treat bacterial growth in the small intestine, which is common in people with IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. As a result, the supplement is given for a short time to stop the overgrowth of bacteria. However, taking berberine for more than one to two weeks it does more harm than good, said Heather Munnelly, a functional nutrition therapy practitioner.

“Long-term use of berberine is known to have a negative impact on the microbiome,” said Munnelly. “In other words, berberine kills your probiotics and allows pathogenic bacteria to thrive.”

The usual dose of berberine is 250 to 500 mg two to three times a day. Side effects of the supplement include nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, and gas.

In general, suppressing your appetite can cause health problems, including liver damage. Additionally, people on TikTok have reported stomach pains after using berberine as a weight loss supplement.

“The irony of this is that people are using berberine to lose weight,” Munnelly said. “However, berberine is effectively a herbal antibiotic, which means it kills probiotics in the gut. This leads to a reduction in microbial diversity which is associated with weight gain, obesity and metabolic disorders. Neither of these things will support the weight loss goal, rather the opposite, especially when used long-term.

Here’s who shouldn’t take berberine

Most experts do not advise anyone to take berberine without first speaking to a doctor. Additionally, there are certain groups of people who may be more susceptible to the negative effects of the supplement. These include:

Pregnant people

Nikka Kanani, a naturopathic doctor at Newport Integrative Health, told HuffPost that berberine shouldn’t be taken if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Taking berberine during pregnancy increases the risk of kernicterus, a neurological disorder of newborns; and jaundice, when there is an increase in bilirubin in the child’s body.

People taking other prescription drugs

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking a berberine supplement if you are currently taking any prescription medications, as berberine can interact with multiple medications including but not limited to blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and blood thinners,” Kanani said.

Since berberine has the ability to break down enzymes quickly, it could lessen the effects of certain drugs. With sedative medications, berberine can cause drowsiness and slowed breathing.

You should be cautious about taking berberine with other diabetes medications such as metformin, which can increase side effects. Also, blood sugar levels can drop too low.

Bottom line: Don’t switch to berberine for weight loss without talking to your doctor

If you’re interested in taking berberine as someone who isn’t diabetic or at risk for diabetes, it’s important to understand the possible dangers.

“As always, I recommend talking to your doctor to make sure berberine is the right supplement for you,” Kanani said. “Just because it’s naturally derived, doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone.”

For people who are turning to the supplement as a way to lose weight because nutrition and exercise aren’t working, there may be a deeper problem going on, Munnelly said. Struggling with weight fluctuations can be the result of chronic stress, conditions like hyperthyroidism, or a hormone imbalance, including PCOS.

“If you’re struggling to lose weight with nutrition and exercise, then consider that there may be a deeper problem going on,” Munnelly said. “The gut microbiome, toxins, blood sugar balance, and many other factors play into how much weight a person carries, and optimizing your weight is realistically far more complex than popping a pill, as influencers would have you believe “.

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