Can Berberine help reduce belly fat?

What is Berberine?

Berberine is a natural plant alkaloid found in many plants across the world. These plants include tree turmeric, goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape and Phellodendron.

For millennia, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines have used plant resources, including Berberine-containing plants, to treat different medical conditions [1]. In recent years, animal models and preclinical and clinical studies have proven that Berberine can safely reduce lipid levels and triglycerides [2,3].

Interest in Berberine as a natural product for treating belly fat has dramatically increased. People want to take natural medications with fewer side effects while helping them lose belly fat [4].

What are belly fats?

Also known as abdominal fats, belly fats are subcutaneous fats found in the belly. As fats accumulate in the spaces between organs in the stomach and the abdomen, the risk for severe health conditions also increases.

Studies [5,6] report visceral fat mass is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Researchers of these studies discovered that visceral fats secrete a protein called RBP4 or retinol-binding protein. 

This protein increases an individual’s resistance to insulin. In the body, insulin is produced in the pancreas and facilitates glucose uptake into the cells. Increased insulin resistance is related to increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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What are the health risks of belly fat?

All individuals will have belly fat. However, those with larger quantities of these belly fats may be at increased risk of different health conditions.

It would help if you made significant lifestyle changes in your diet and workout consistently to shed a few pounds in a week
  • Heart disease

One study [7] reported that increased abdominal fat is an independent risk factor for non-fatal and fatal heart strokes and heart attacks. Despite having an average body mass index (BMI) or slightly higher blood pressure and triglycerides, a large mass of visceral fats can result in stroke and heart attack.

  • Type 2 diabetes

Waist circumference (WC) determines visceral fat accumulation in both men and women. A waist circumference of 85 cm2 or greater in men and a waist circumference of 90cm2 or higher in women correspond to a visceral fat area of 100cm2 [8].

A longitudinal study [9] reports that the cut-off visceral fat area (VFA) value for predicting type 2 diabetes mellitus is 82.6 cm2 in women and 118.cm2 in men.

A study [10] recommends the following reference values to prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus:

VFA = / >to 80 cm2 in women
VFA of = / > 100 cm2 in men

  • Colorectal cancer

A study [11] has revealed that the volume of visceral fat tissue is predictive of colorectal cancer. Individuals who have increased belly fat are at higher risk of colorectal cancer.

  • Breast cancer

In postmenopausal women, visceral fat distribution and abdominal fat ratio are essential indicators of breast cancer risk and malignancy [12].

  • Alzheimer’s disease

The amount of visceral fat [13] is also associated with cognitive impairment in older adults.

How can I prevent the storage of fat in my belly?

A study of postmenopausal women [14] shows that exercise and diet can lead to a 6.1%-6.7% reduction in intra-abdominal and subcutaneous abdominal fat. Hence, exercise and diet are essential lifestyle changes that reduce belly fat.

Stress and the increased release of a hormone related to stress, cortisol, results in increased abdominal fat [15]. Hence, reducing stress could help reduce belly fat.

A good night’s sleep can also reduce belly fat. Short sleep duration in both men and women is associated with increased visceral fat [16].

Can Berberine supplements reduce my belly fat?

Berberine can potentially reduce triglyceride levels in both animals in preclinical studies and humans in clinical studies [17,18]. Berberine targets lipid production through multiple pathways and reduces the production of cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the production of high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol.

Berberine is also known to inhibit leptin secretion and increase the release of adiponectin. Adiponectin is crucial in protecting individuals from atherosclerosis and insulin resistance/diabetes [19]. Meanwhile, a higher volume of subcutaneous, visceral fats correlates with higher leptin levels [20].

Since Berberine improves visceral fat cells’ insulin sensitivity and inhibits fat storage in the belly, this supplement potentially reduces belly fat.

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How does Berberine target belly fat?

A review of the pharmacokinetics of Berberine suggests that its primary target includes adipose or fat tissues [21]. Fat tissues are massive energy reserve organs. Fat cells differentiate and proliferate excessively, leading to excessive fat accumulation and increased belly fat. At the time, these fat tissues secrete hormones such as adipokines.

Changes in adipokine secretion are early markers and symptoms that adipose tissue function is impaired. Both adiponectin and leptin are vital biomarkers of fat tissue. Obese patients experience hypoadinopectinemia and hyperleptinemia.

Animal studies provide most of the evidence on the effectiveness of Berberine in reducing visceral fats. Recent studies examined how Berberine act on preadipocytes (early-stage fat cells) isolated from human omental fat.

Only one clinical trial has examined Berberine’s effects on body fat. This clinical trial [22] recruited 41 patients aged 32 to 68 newly diagnosed with metabolic syndrome to explore the benefits of Berberine on abdominal fats. Only a total of 37 patients completed the study. Findings revealed that treatment of 300 mg of Berberine three times a day for 12 weeks resulted in a significant reduction of 5.2 cm in waist circumference. 

Berberine has the potential to reduce belly fat after 12 weeks of treatment. Significantly, all participants did not change their lifestyle during the study. When used alone, Berberine may reduce belly fat after 12 weeks. However, this study has a small sample size. Verifying findings in a larger trial in the future will help strengthen the results of this small study.

Earlier studies suggest that individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes tolerate dosages ranging from 600 to 2700 mg/day well. There were no reported liver or kidney damages in these individuals. In a recent clinical trial, 900 mg of Berberine daily for 12 weeks can reduce belly fat. However, examining the toxicity of this dosage in the long term is necessary before recommending this dosage to patients planning to lose belly fat. To date, there are still no long-term clinical trials on the effectiveness of Berberine in reducing belly fat over time.

Is Berberine safe to use in reducing belly fat?

The lack of long-term clinical studies on the effects of Berberine over time in reducing belly fat makes it difficult to assess its overall safety. Other clinical studies report no adverse events when taking Berberine in dosages from 600-2700 mg. A similar dosage range may be applicable for those who want to reduce belly fat. Establishing the safety of Berberine is critical to ensure that patients taking the supplements do not experience drug toxicity and other adverse events.

Consultation with your doctor is necessary when planning to take Berberine supplements for belly fat reduction. Your healthcare professional will inform you of potential adverse effects when taking Berberine and other medications such as metformin and hypertension. 

To date, Berberine has known drug interactions with metformin, anti-hypertensive drugs and sedatives. When taken together, Berberine and sedatives increase drowsiness. Since metformin is a blood glucose-lowering medicine, taking Berberine with this medication can significantly reduce blood glucose levels. Severe hypoglycaemia can result in nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness. Anti-hypertensive drugs and Berberine can also result in significant hypotension.

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The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.