Berberine: Regulating Obesity and the Gut Microbiota

There are a number of natural treatments that can help with the regulation of obesity through the microbiota/inflammation connection – but arguably the most effective botanical is berberine, an alkaloid (originally isolated from traditional Chinese herbs) that has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2,500 years.  Many of my patients have used berberine as a way of reducing abnormal gut bacteria and treating dysbiosis (or unhealthy bacterial patterns in the gut), but recent studies have shown that this is just one of its several benefits.   


Can berberine actually promote weight loss?

In a study by Hu and colleagues (2012), obese subjects were given 500 milligrams of berberine orally three times per day.  The result was a modest weight loss of five pounds, but a much greater improvement in blood lipids, including a 23 percent decrease in triglycerides and a 12.2 percent decrease in cholesterol – these results were also replicated in similar studies involving animals.  In addition, vitamin D (calcitriol) levels increased by 59 percent, leading the authors to suggest that berberine might also be useful in the prevention of osteoporosis.  Over the course of the study, researchers determined that berberine can contribute to significant weight loss, as well as a reduction in fat mass and improvements in blood-sugar levels and insulin resistance.

Another study by Chang and colleagues in 2012 showed that berberine also reduces homocysteine (a metabolite associated with increased risks for heart disease and strokes) in rats that were fed a high-fat diet.  In addition, significant weight loss, improved triglyceride levels, and lower LDL cholesterol were seen.  Another study (Zhang et al. 2012) showed that berberine actually prevented the development of obesity and insulin resistance in rats that were fed a high-fat diet. Zhang and colleagues also felt that these effects were from modulation of the gut microbiota, leading to lower levels of inflammation and weight loss.


What are the other benefits of berberine?

In addition to regulating obesity and gut microbiota, berberine has been prescribed in recent years to help:

  • Treat type 2 diabetes

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Improve insulin sensitivity

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Lower cholesterol

  • Lower cancer risk

  • Treat stomach ulcers

  • Reduce menopausal symptoms

Berberine has also been found to improve endothelial function, thought to be the key factor in the development of heart disease. All of berberine’s broad-based benefits make it a powerful ally in lowering cortisol through reduction in inflammation, blood sugar, and harmful fats.


Which kind is used to regulate obesity?

Dr. Moss prefers berberine HCL derived from Indian barbery extract and is 500 mg per capsule. On brand is Thorne though other high quality brands are available. In most cases, the daily dose of berberine required to regulate obesity is 1,000 to 1500milligrams. That is also the dose that will improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk for diabetes. 


Want to learn more about berberine?

If you’re interested in learning more about berberine and the regulation of obesity, you can find additional information in The Adaptation Diet.  While berberine has helped a number of my patients lose weight and normalize their gut microbiota, it may not be the best solution for everyone – please give us a call and set up a consultation before adding berberine to your daily intake of supplements.