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Berberine supports glucose balance and cholesterol metabolism, study shows


  • Berberine supports glucose balance and cholesterol metabolism
  • Dosage: 500 mg/day, three times daily, with meals
  • Main side effect is digestive upset due to high dosages needed for efficacy
  • Low-dose dihydroberberine may be a more tolerable alternative


    The aim of this pilot study was twofold:

    1. Compare how well berberine works compared to metformin for treating newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes in adults (Study A); and

    2. Evaluate the impact of adding berberine to the treatment of adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes (Study B).

      Participants were recruited from the Diabetes Outpatient Department of Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai, China. The primary endpoint was glycemic control as measured by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c).

      Study A involved 36 adults with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus who were randomly assigned to treatment with berberine or metformin (500 mg, three times a day) for 3 months. Results indicate berberine and metformin had similar hypoglycemic effects. Berberine also significantly reduced the blood triglyceride level (see Table). 

      Improvements in Key Blood Parameters: Berberine vs. Metformin Treatment




      HbA1c (%)

      9.5% to 7.5%*

      9.2% to 7.7%**

      FBG (mmol/L)

      10.6 to 6.9 *

      9.96 to 7.16**

      PBG (mmol/L)

      19.8 to 11.1 *

      20.5 to 12.9

      TG (mmol/L)

      1.13 to 0.89 **

      1.19 to 1.17

      HbA1c indicates hemoglobin A1c; FBG, fasting blood glucose; PBG, postprandial blood glucose; TG, plasma triglycerides

      * P<.01 compared to baseline; ** P<.05 compared to baseline

      Conversion factors: blood glucose, mg/dl = 18 × mmol/L; TG, mmol/L x 88.57.


      Study B involved 48 adults with type 2 diabetes poorly controlled with diet and one or more hypoglycemic drugs (e.g., sulfonylureas, metformin, acarbose, insulin) and who were supplemented with berberine (500 mg/day for 3 months).

      Compared to baseline, the berberine add-on therapy significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose as early as 5 weeks. HbA1c decreased from 8.1% to 7.3% (P<.001). Fasting plasma insulin and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR) decreased by 29% and 45% (P<.001), respectively. Berberine add-on therapy also significantly (P<.05) decreased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

      As combination therapy (Study B), berberine was less well tolerated than standalone therapy (Study A). Transient digestive complaints were the primary reported side effect (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and abdominal pain), which resolved when the berberine dosage was reduced from 500 mg to 300 mg, three times daily. Liver and kidney functions were monitored, and no participant had a significant increase (more than 50%) in liver enzymes or creatinine levels.

      These preliminary findings suggest berberine supplementation (300-500 mg, three times daily) may offer therapeutic value for glycemic control and blood lipid management in adults with type 2 diabetes, who are either newly diagnosed or poorly managed with current therapy.



      Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717. PMID: 18442638 

      Disclaimer: This information is for licensed healthcare professionals only to inform patient treatment. It is not intended for consumer use.