What You Should Know About the Health Benefits of Berberine

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Berberine is an alkaloid extracted from various plants, providing health benefits with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Berberine has been utilized for thousands of years — for both healing modalities and in textile dyes for its yellow hue — with the oldest written records of its therapeutic use dating back to 650 BC. In recent decades, its popularity as a supplement has grown alongside the collection of research on its impressive health benefits. 

Although in those ancient times, berberine was used most often for curing ailments, ranging from snake bites to stomach aches, the majority of today’s research focuses on its ability to manage blood sugar and metabolic markers, as well as cardiovascular, brain, and liver health.

In this article, we’ll detail how berberine works in the body, the top benefits of the compound, and how combining berberine with trans-resveratrol and NMN leads to a synergistic supplement stack that promotes health and longevity.

What is Berberine? 

Berberine is an alkaloid compound that is most commonly extracted from plants of the barberry family or the perennial herb goldenseal. However, berberine can be obtained from dozens of other plant families and genera. 

Berberine’s health-promoting powers come primarily from its chemical structure as an alkaloid, which increases its antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory actions. Alkaloids in plants are produced as a defense response to environmental stressors, providing pharmacological-like benefits in the human body. 

How Does Berberine Work?

As an antioxidant, berberine scavenges for free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which are damaging compounds that create an inflammatory environment that accelerates aging and disease development. Additionally, berberine may also increase levels of other antioxidants in the body, including glutathione and superoxide dismutase. 

Berberine impacts various systems in the body through its activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that acts as a sensor for low levels of energy, or ATP, inside cells. When this occurs, AMPK works quickly to restore intracellular energy levels, which it does by redirecting metabolism and taking glucose from the blood and pulling it into cells. 

Essentially, AMPK acts as a master metabolic regulator in the body, and berberine encourages this process. 

Top 5 Health Benefits of Berberine

1. Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Through its activation of the AMPK pathway, which pulls glucose from the blood into cells for energy, berberine has been shown to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in those who are already in the normal range. 

In addition, berberine has been found to increase the activity of glucokinase, an enzyme that facilitates glucose metabolism. 

In an April 2019 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, individuals who took berberine for one month experienced significant reductions in fasting blood glucose and blood glucose two hours after a meal compared to those taking a placebo. 

These results indicate that berberine supplementation does not need to be taken for a long time before seeing the benefits on glucose metabolism.

Berberine has been shown to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

2. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Berberine increases the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Also, berberine may prevent atherosclerosis (the buildup of arterial plaque) by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidized LDL particles, as well as upregulating the expression of the sirtuin, SIRT1, which plays a role in promoting both longevity and arterial health. 

In a randomized controlled trial published in Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, healthy individuals who took 500 mg of berberine twice a day for three months saw significant reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, with increases in HDL cholesterol, compared to a placebo. 

As abnormal cholesterol and lipid levels are a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, berberine may be helpful for improving or maintaining healthy levels of these biomarkers. 

3. Improves Liver Function

Berberine has been shown to reduce the buildup of hepatic fat, also known as fatty liver or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). 

A clinical trial of patients with NAFLD found that 16 weeks of berberine supplementation, combined with lifestyle interventions, led to significant reductions in hepatic fat levels and metabolic improvements, as measured by weight, blood glucose, and lipid profiles. 

In addition to reducing hepatic fat levels, berberine also improves liver health by suppressing the inflammation and oxidative stress that may damage the organ. 

4. Supports Brain Health

There are several mechanisms behind berberine’s ability to protect and improve brain health, beginning with its role as an antioxidant. This reduces the neuroinflammation and oxidative stress characteristic of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. 

As outlined in a June 2019 review published in Current Neuropharmacology, berberine can cross the blood-brain barrier and clear out damaged neuronal proteins by inducing autophagy. Additionally, berberine has been found to prevent the buildup of amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a systematic review of 15 animal studies, berberine intervention was associated with significant improvements in memory and reductions in inflammation, amyloid-beta plaque buildup, and oxidative stress.

In addition to improving neurodegenerative diseases, berberine may also benefit mood disorders. Through the regulation of neurotransmitters and the increase of nitric oxide via activation of the AMPK pathway, animal studies have shown that berberine may improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Berberine has been studied for its effects on brain health through improving mood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

5. Aids Weight Loss

Similarly to how berberine improves metabolic markers and hepatic fat levels, the compound is also linked to weight loss and obesity reduction. 

Although the pathogenesis of obesity is multifactorial, inflammation and dysregulated glucose metabolism are both known to play a role in its development. In addition, berberine has been found to reduce adipocyte (fat cell) differentiation by modulating gene expression. 

A study published in Cell Death & Disease showed that mildly overweight adults who took berberine for one month had reductions in body weight and increases in brown adipose tissue activity. Also known as brown fat, this type of tissue is more metabolically active and increases energy expenditure; having more brown fat is linked to healthier body weights. 

Power-Packed Trio: Berberine, Trans-Resveratrol, and NMN

The health benefits of berberine can become even more pronounced when combined with trans-resveratrol and NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide). Both NMN and trans-resveratrol activate the expression of sirtuins, and both berberine and trans-resveratrol activate the AMPK pathway. 

Trans-resveratrol, which is the most bioavailable form of the polyphenolic compound found in red wine, increases NMN's effectiveness, the precursor to the essential coenzyme NAD+ that fights aging and disease. When taken together, this powerful trio works synergistically to boost various health-promoting and anti-aging pathways. . 

Key Takeaway:

  • The plant alkaloid berberine is most well-known for its ability to maintain healthy blood sugar and lipid levels, which improves cardiovascular and metabolic health. 
  • In addition, berberine has been studied for its beneficial effects on liver function, brain health, and weight management. 
  • Combining berberine with trans-resveratrol and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) amplifies its health benefits, as this trio activates several anti-aging and longevity pathways.
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