Demand For Dietary Supplement Touted As 'Nature's Ozempic' Spikes

As the costly diabetes drug Ozempic and weight loss drug Wegovy continue to be in short supply across the United States, people are now turning to a less expensive and natural supplement to curb their appetites. Berberine is a chemical found in plants, such as goldenseal and barberry, and it's been dubbed "nature's Ozempic" on TikTok with nearly 3 million views.

Although plants rich in berberine have been used for more than 3,000 years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine (via a 2018 article in Frontiers in Pharmacology), Google Trends shows that searches for berberine supplements surged towards the end of May. If your insurance doesn't cover your prescription, Ozempic can cost you about $900 for a one-month supply. Compare that with Amazon's top-selling berberine supplement, which costs about $36, and you don't need a prescription from your doctor. However, it's important to note that berberine does not have the active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide (via The Conversation).

How effective is berberine for weight loss?

A 2022 systematic review in Frontiers in Nutrition pooled the effects of berberine from 49 research studies. Overall, berberine can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, insulin, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and weight. However, if you have a BMI of less than 25, berberine was ineffective for all of these results. Even for people whose BMI is above 25, the weight change was less than two pounds and BMI was about 1/4 of a point. In fact, integrative medicine specialistĀ Dr. Melinda Ring tellsĀ The New York Times that the effects of berberine on weight loss are "grossly overstated."

Like Ozempic, berberine also comes with gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhea and an upset stomach, according to The Conversation. Because berberine could permeate the placenta and harm an unborn fetus, it's not recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Berberine also could interact with medications for blood clots, diabetes, and high blood pressure (via WebMD). Supplements such as berberine aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, as per CBS News, so the amount of berberine in a bottle might not be what's stated on the label.