Has your doctor diagnosed you with high cholesterol? It’s a common problem for millions of Americans. Having high cholesterol may indicate you are at greater risk of suffering with cardiovascular disease. Heart disease kills more Americans than any other condition, so it’s important to try and reduce your risk.

Cholesterol lowering drugs are a controversial topic. They are some of the highest selling drugs in the world, yet many patients don’t want to take them because of the dreadful side effects they can cause. Berberine is a plant extract that is a safe and effective way of normalizing blood fats.

Cholesterol is a fat like substance called a sterol. It is hard and waxy and melts at 149ºC (300ºF). Our body manufactures approximately one gram of cholesterol per day; this is mainly in the liver, but also occurs in the intestines, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. In fact, every cell of our body has the capacity to manufacture cholesterol if needed.

We also obtain cholesterol in our diet by eating animal foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. However, 80% of the cholesterol in our body is manufactured in the liver. Our body makes cholesterol out of a molecule called acetyl Co A; this is derived from the breakdown of sugars, fats and protein. Basically any calories in excess of our body’s needs can be turned into cholesterol.
Some people manufacture excessive levels of cholesterol in their body despite having a healthy diet. This is most commonly due to genetic factors or syndrome X (insulin resistance). Berberine is particularly effective for people with syndrome X.

Berberine is an herbal extract with a number of research-proven benefits to metabolism. It is especially beneficial for type 2 diabetics. Studies have shown berberine can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and it even makes weight loss easier.

Berberine is found in several different herbs. Examples include Goldenseal, barberry, oregon grape and phellodendron. It has a long tradition of use in Chinese Herbal Medicine. It is naturally yellow in color with an intensely bitter taste. Fortunately when taken in capsule form you can obtain all the benefits without having to experience the unpleasant taste.

An increasing amount of research is showing that berberine’s blood sugar lowering and cholesterol lowering properties rival those of prescription drugs. In some instances berberine is at least as effective as some prescription drugs, but without harmful side effects. Berberine may make it easier for type 2 diabetics to control their blood sugar and their weight.

Effects of berberine on metabolism

Once berberine is absorbed into your bloodstream, one of its main actions is to activate an enzyme inside cells called AMP-activated protein kinase. This is a powerful enzyme with a number of important functions in your body.

These include:

  • Stimulating oxidation (breakdown) of fatty acids inside the liver
  • Stimulating the production of ketones (breakdown products of fat), to be used for energy
  • Inhibiting the production of cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Inhibiting lipogenesis (the creation of fat)
  • Increasing the utilization of glucose by skeletal muscle cells (thereby helping to reduce elevated blood sugar)
  • Regulating the production of insulin by beta cells in the pancreas, thus helping blood sugar control

These actions explain the enormous benefits berberine has for individuals with insulin resistance (syndrome X) and obesity.

Improvement in blood fats

Berberine can help to lower cholesterol and triglycerides if they are abnormally elevated. It does this by lowering an enzyme called PCSK9. This way, LDL cholesterol (which has traditionally been referred to as “bad cholesterol”) can be removed from your bloodstream. This means cholesterol is less likely to accumulate on your artery walls and narrow them. Drugs that lower cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme PCSK9 have only just received approval by the FDA. Some researchers believe they will be the next big thing after statins. Many people are forced to discontinue taking statins because of terrible side effects such as muscle pain, inflammation in the liver and impaired cognitive function. There is a lot of information about cholesterol in the book Cholesterol the Real Truth.

Studies have shown that berberine can also lower apolipoprotein B by between 13 and 15 percent. This is important because several studies have shown that elevated apolipoprotein B is a bigger risk factor for cardiovascular disease than elevated LDL cholesterol. It is said to be more atherogenic.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Dong H, et al. Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:591654
Lee YS, et al Berberine, a natural plant product, activates AMP-activated protein kinase with beneficial metabolic effects in diabetic and insulin-resistant states. Diabetes. 2006 Aug;55(8):2256-64
Jun Yin, et al. Berberine Improves Glucose Metabolism through Induction of Glycolysis Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan; 294(1): E148–E156.