This question has been floating around in social media for months now. None of the posts I’ve seen compare and contrast them that well. So, let me take a stab at it here.
To compare the two, both are used to manage blood glucose levels. Both can impact weight. And both have known side effects. That’s about it.
Ozempic is a synthetic pharmaceutical that was created in 2012, while berberine is a natural, plant-based compound that has been used in traditional medicine for 3,000 years. The way the two molecules work, or the mechanism of action, are quite different. Ozempic is a GLP-1 receptor agonist which increases insulin secretion, suppresses glucagon release, slows gastric emptying, and reduces appetite and body weight.
- Ozempic enhances glucose-dependent insulin secretion by the pancreatic beta-cells. When blood glucose levels are elevated, Ozempic binds to the GLP-1 receptors on the beta-cells in the pancreas, promoting insulin release.
- It suppresses the release of glucagon, a hormone that raises blood glucose levels, from the alpha cells of the pancreas in a glucose-dependent manner. This helps to reduce the amount of glucose produced by the liver, consequently lowering blood glucose levels.
- Ozempic slows gastric emptying, reducing the speed at which food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. This action can help in reducing the rapid rise in blood glucose levels that typically occurs after meals.
- It may reduce appetite and food intake, potentially leading to weight loss, which can be beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes, as many individuals with this condition are overweight or obese.
In contrast, berberine activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism. Activation of AMPK improves insulin sensitivity, enhances glucose uptake by cells, and reduces glucose production in the liver, helping to maintain energy balance and glucose homeostasis.
So, what is AMPK and how does its activation impact metabolism? Well, to answer this, we have to discuss the mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of the cell. Mitochondria is where glucose is turned into ATP through a process called the Krebs Cycle. Berberine causes a change in the Krebs cycle that leads to a decrease in ATP production.
The alteration in ATP production leads to an increase in the AMP: ATP ratio within the cell, activating the AMPK. AMPK activation promotes catabolic pathways that generate ATP, such as glucose uptake and fatty acid oxidation, and inhibits anabolic pathways that consume ATP, such as synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, and glycogen. Traditional berberine is fat soluble which means less than one percent passes the gut barrier.
There is evidence that berberine reduces intestinal glucose absorption, thus lowering post-meal blood glucose levels.
In terms of weight loss, there is some data showing that berberine helps. This data suggests that berberine can affect appetite regulation and increase adiponectin levels, a hormone released from fat cells that plays a role in regulating glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown, potentially contributing to the weight loss.
So, should berberine be called Nature’s Ozempic? Navigate to our Instagram and vote!
As always, anyone considering berberine supplementation for weight loss or any other health benefit should do so under the guidance of a healthcare professional due to the potential side effects.