One of the most recommended herbal extracts among healthcare practitioners; berberine is a firm favourite. Not only does it have a long history of traditional use, but a wealth of scientific backing too. Perhaps what’s most useful about berberine though is its diverse range of potential therapeutic activity.
Here we shine a spotlight on some of the research on berberine’s blood glucose-lowering effects.
Best known for its anti-microbial activity, berberine is often recommended at the beginning of a 5R programme to support gut health. Another lesser-known but equally important attribute however is its potential impact on blood glucose levels. And this may be particularly relevant as we face increasing levels of overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes and poor metabolic health. Taking action to improve key parameters of metabolic health requires a multi-faceted approach involving modifiable dietary and lifestyle factors and this is a significant global priority. Does berberine have a role to play? We take a closer look at the evidence:
• Berberine has been shown to increase insulin receptor expression and improve glucose utility both in vitro, in animal models and in human studies too.1,2
• In a 2010 study published in Metabolism, berberine significantly lowered fasting blood glucose (FBG), haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), triglyceride and insulin levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). The FBG and HbA1c-lowering effects of berberine were similar to those of metformin and rosiglitazone. The researchers concluded, “our results confirmed the activity of berberine on insulin receptor in humans and its relationship with the glucose-lowering effect.”3
• A 2014 systematic review found that berberine with lifestyle intervention was more effective in lowering HbA1c than lifestyle intervention alone or placebo.4 Additional studies have confirmed these effects.4-7
• Most recently, in 2019, a large scale systematic literature review and a meta-analysis of all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was carried out to assess the blood glucose lowering effects of berberine in patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) and to identify potential factors which may modify the effect. The researchers concluded, “the evidence from our systematic literature review and meta-analysis suggests that Berberine (or Berberine combined with oral hypoglycemic agents (OHA)) has a significant hypoglycemic effect, which appeared to be similar to the effect of OHA in T2DM patients. When combined with OHA, it achieves a greater reduction of blood glucose than Berberine or OHA alone. The age of patients, daily dosage of Berberine, and the treatment duration could also affect the efficacy of treatment.”8
It is vital to acknowledge the multi-faceted approach needed to support metabolic health and it is also important to understand the potential role that herbal ingredients may have to play too.
Health Professional Resource
Find out more here on berberine’s widespread clinical applications in our technical paper The Widespread Clinical Applications of Berberine.
1. Changrong G, Yingbiao Z, et al. (2017) Study on the evaluation of curative effect of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and its safety. China Modern Doctor 33: 82–3384 (In Chinese)
2. Hu Y, Ehli EA et al. Lipid-lowering effect of berberine in human subjects and rats. Phytomedicine 19: 861-867 (2012)
3. Zhang H, Wei J et al. Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression. Metabolism 59: 285-292
4. Lan J, Zhao Y, et al. (2014) Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol 161: 69–81
5. Meng L. Clinical observation on the berberine combined with glipizide in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes New World 19: 19–21 (In Chinese) (2016)
6. Zhu J, Wang X, (2015) Gliclazide combined with berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Zhejiang Journal of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine25: 915–917 (In Chinese)
7. Dai P, Wang J et al. Renoprotective effects of berberine as adjuvant therapy for hypertensive patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: evaluation via biochemical markers and color Doppler ultrasonography. Exp Ther Med 10: 869-876
8. Lang Y, Xu X, et al. Effects of berberine on blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J-Stage 2019 Volume 66 Issue 1 Pages 51-63
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