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Ozempic and Berberine- Do You know the facts?

Kim Shapira
June 26, 2023
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In a recent interview for Vanity Fair, I said, “Ozempic is a real lifeline for many people.” It’s helping people do exactly what they should be doing: eating often and eating smaller amounts of food. This is really one of the key factors in balancing blood sugars. Fun fact: balanced blood sugar leads to longer lives, and the more balanced our blood sugar, the less likely we are to develop diseases. Sounds pretty good, right?  Diet, weight and obesity are linked to many metabolic diseases like high cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and many more. Lately, there are many articles popping up all over the news and social media platforms regarding folks going off their meds as these metabolic diseases are going away ⚕️❤️‍🩹.  That is incredible, isn’t this exactly what we want! People taking control of their health, and their life.  It makes me so happy. So yes, Ozempic is turning out to be quite the lifeline.  But are people taking and using Ozempic for the right reasons?  That is not for us to decide. Remember, metabolic diseases are in thin people as well, and we can’t see what is going on inside people. What I can tell you is that I have spent 25 years listening to people's struggles, the constant noise and the effect diet culture has had in people’s lives. Ozempic is helping this too. It’s drowning out the noise, and people are starting to listen to their own bodies, there is a movement happening. 

The average American gained 29 pounds during the COVID lockdowns. And we had a weight problem even before that. So, as you can tell, I am excited to see the needle moving in the right direction, and I am here for it and excited to help. As most of you know, I focus on helping people’s relationship with food. I can talk about food and nutrition all day long, but it’s not my passion. My true passion is supporting people to change their habits. I am all in, in helping those who want it. People can learn to have sustainable routines that will result in being well. I am nervous that people will lose weight, and not change, and yet, I am also hopeful and excited to see some people working hard to make that change. I am rooting for you.

And now, Berberine, as discussed on TikTok as “Nature’s Ozempic,” the it thing. What is Berberine? Does it really help you lose weight? I think it’s more like “Nature's Metformin.” Metformin is a type 2 diabetes medication that helps regulate blood sugar, plus, so much more.

Berberine is my favorite supplement and I have never ever recommended it for weight loss. Berberine is a natural form of hydrochloric acid and helps many digestive issues. Please talk to your doctor or dietitian to see if Berberine is, in fact, a good choice for you.

Berberine is a supplement made from a compound found in plants including barberry, goldenseal, and turmeric. It has been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Berberine, like every other supplement is not regulated by the FDA and is NOT FDA APPROVED. The quality and accuracy of what is in the supplement formulation can vary. Not all supplements on the market are created equal. I really only recommend one brand for this reason. 

Berberine has been studied for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic effects, not weight loss. Many side effects including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea lead people to think the drug is helping them lose weight. Trust me, these are not great side effects and it is not necessary to experience them to lose weight. 

Berberine activates a gene known as the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and it also lowers glucagon release. Berberine is also not safe to use at the same time as many medications (which is why I say talk to a professional). “Research shows us that berberine can improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and reduce triglycerides and so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol, particularly in those with type 2 diabetes.”

One study carried out in 2012, found that taking 500 milligrams of berberine three times per day caused approximately 5 pounds of weight loss, on average, and helped participants lose 3.6% of their body fat.

Another, review Trusted Source of 12 studies in 2020 found that supplementing with berberine led to significant reductions in body weight, body mass index, and belly fat.

Berberine or Ozempic- they aren’t the same

Berberine may have been nicknamed ‘Nature’s Ozempic’ on TikTok due to its weight loss effects, but the two drugs are significantly different. While both Berberine and GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic have similar effects on weight, they work differently. Berberine allows for a specific enzyme to be released, which decreases the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood. On the other hand, Ozempic includes something called semaglutide, which causes one to not feel as hungry. In other words, Berberine does not take away your food craving like Ozempic, but instead removes the cholesterol to create healthier blood flow and diminish weight gain.

Remember, neither Berberine, nor Ozempic, are magic solutions on their own. They work best when combined with healthy eating habits and exercise. Nothing comes without effort, and you will still need to make real changes. ⁠

How safe is Berberine?

There are many contraindications when it comes to the safety of berberine.

Talk to your doctor first if you are  pregnant or breastfeeding, or taking prescription medications including oral contraceptives, immunosuppressants, beta-blockers, or anti-depressants. Berberine can alter the level of the medication in your body. 

Berberine should not be taken for more than 8 weeks consecutively either, unless under professional advice. Berberine has pretty strong antimicrobial effects on the gut microbiome, which is why I love it. But taken in the wrong way, it could strip the good bacteria in the microbiome causing other gut-related health issues.

Some side effects to be aware of include:

Additionally, more research is needed on how berberine affects the liver and kidneys in humans.

Berberine isn’t a silver bullet for weight loss

Berberine is not the shortcut for weight loss. Many think that they can take the supplement to lose weight, but this does not address the underlying lifestyle habits that originally contributed to the weight gain. The supplement alone won’t help you to understand your current food and activity habits. I encourage you to make positive changes, or prioritize your overall health. In other words, weight management is a little more complex than simply popping a pill.

Improving your health and changing your habits takes time.

There are no shortcuts in your journey with food, but there are skills to learn to make the journey easier and more enjoyable! Follow along for tips to change your eating habits and start making a change.



Kim Shapira

Kim Shapira

dietitian and nutrition therapist.

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