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There is a Chinese plant alkaloid that actually works just as well as a prescription drug for diabetes but it is not well known. Time and time again this natural substance has performed on par with pharmaceuticals yet it is rarely recommended. The alkaloid is called berberine. It is commonly known because it is the active ingredient in goldenseal, however there is not enough of this active ingredient in goldenseal to help with diabetes. Lately it has been extracted and standardized to over 97% pure and has been found to have remarkable effects on blood sugar and cholesterol. We will discuss how it works here.
There are a few ways that berberine is theorized to work. One of the most exciting mechanisms is its effect on AMPK, which is basically a protein in your body that signals your GLUT4 “sugar trucks” to come out and grab the sugar you just ate. This might seem complicated but all you need to understand is that it will make your blood sugar decrease the same way that exercise does. This actually makes it very similar to the drug metformin, which in a few studies showed that berberine was just as good at lowering blood sugar. Very powerful!
Another way that berberine works is through its DPP-4 inhibition. DPP-4 is an enzyme that breaks down a substance called GLP-1. The GLP-1 is important because its job is to help make more insulin and slow down the GI tract, which will ultimately help decrease blood sugar. In fact, there are a few pharmaceutical drugs out there that are just DPP-4 inhibitors as well as drugs out there that are strictly GLP-1 agonists (look like GLP-1). So again the bottom line is that berberine will lower blood sugar.
One more proposed mechanism is that berberine actually prevents digestion of sugar. It does this by stopping an enzyme that breaks down sugar, which results in decreased blood sugar and/or just not increasing blood sugar as much after a meal. This would be better suited for those who have a sweet tooth and are not on a low carbohydrate diet.
With all of these ways that berberine works I think it is important to take away from this that there ARE other methods to reduce blood sugar other than prescription drugs. There is a natural way to do it and that is through diet, exercise, and of course a powerful naturally occurring substance such as berberine. In the clinic we have actrually have many people come off of their prescription diabetes drugs because they used berberine in conjunction with a lower carbohydrate diet and a structured exercise program. In order to get the best results you should look for a berberine product that contains 500 mg of AT LEAST 90% pure berberine but preferentially more than 97% pure. Taking 500 mg two to three times per day with meals seems to get the best results. We usually recommend no more than this since the safety hasn't been studied at higher doses. The safety profile at this dosing is very good! Here's to naturally lowering blood sugar!