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Can Berberine Actually Help You Lose Weight?

June 17, 2024

Commonly referred to as “Nature’s Ozempic,” berberine is shaping up to be the next weight loss craze.

But is this dietary supplement worth trying? We asked Devika Umashanker, MD, the system medical director of Medical Weight Loss at Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, for details.

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What is berberine?

Found in plants like goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape and others, berberine is a compound with countless reported health benefits.

“Current studies are looking at its effects on diabetes and risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Umashanker.

But more recently, it’s making headlines as “nature’s Ozempic,” a potential weight loss supplement.

Berberine is not an FDA-approved weight loss medication.

FDA approval is a trusted mark of safety and efficacy for a drug’s intended use.

But as a dietary supplement, berberine hasn’t been approved for weight loss.

“This is where our concern comes in,” cautions Dr. Umashanker. “Without this FDA approval and extensive studies, there just isn’t enough data out there. We would not recommend berberine as part of your treatment in our program.”

Supplement labels don’t tell the whole story.

“Without the same regulations as FDA-approved products, dietary supplements don’t need to list all their ingredients on the bottle, or they may contain altered ingredients,” says Dr. Umashanker.

Without this information, you can’t know what you’re taking or how it interacts with your current medications.

“It’s easy to assume a natural supplement is safe, but that’s not always accurate,” says Dr. Umashanker. “Don’t put yourself in a situation where it could be more detrimental than helpful for your health.”

Always talk to your doctor before taking any medication.

“Anytime you take anything, whether it’s a tablet or liquid that’s supposed to help your health, tell your doctor,” says Dr. Umashanker.

Armed with your medical history, your physician can:

  • Discuss the side effects that you could potentially experience.
  • Ensure there are no negative interactions with your existing medications.
  • Review the proper way to take this medication safely.
  • Set up follow-up appointments and monitoring as needed.

“Before you start any kind of medication, work with your doctor to create a comprehensive approach that will work best for your health and goals,” says Dr. Umashanker.

Skip the berberine or other supplements that advertise weight loss.

“Please don’t do it,” Dr. Umashanker urges.

Other FDA-approved weight loss medications can be safe, cost-effective and helpful.

“Everyone has a different weight loss journey,” says Dr. Umashanker. “If you’re at a place where your weight impacts your health, talk to your doctor. Whether it’s medication, bariatric surgery or lifestyle modifications, we can help get you on the right path to health.”