November 28, 2023

12News talked to a dietician and weight loss expert about berberine, a dietary supplement going viral after social media users claim it’s caused weight loss.

PHOENIX — A supplement called berberine is going viral online with users claiming it has weight loss effects. TikTok users have nicknamed it “nature’s Ozempic,” referencing the popular semaglutide medication.

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Google search trends show searches for the supplement have spiked, reaching a peak in the final days of May. According to Google, Arizona had the third highest interest in berberine over the past year.

Stock checks at health stores online show the supplement is out of stock in many stores across the Valley.

Differences between berberine and Ozempic

Michael Murphy with AZ Weight Loss Clinic said his facility, which specializes in weight loss surgery, has received an uptick in calls from Arizonans wanting Ozempic, Wegovy or other semaglutide medications.

“People are really excited because these [semaglutides] are actually showing to work,” Murphy said. “As a dietitian for 20 years, I’ve seen everything come and go.”

Murphy said despite berberine’s catchy nickname, there are big differences between Ozempic and the supplement and berberine is not an alternative to Ozempic.

“It’s [berberine] something you can get over the counter, versus Ozempic which has to be prescribed and monitored by a physician,” Murphy explained.

Berberine is sold in many places, from GNC to Amazon, and ranges from $20 to $40 a bottle. Semaglutides can cost around $1,000.

So… does it work?

What does berberine actually do?

“It is showing that it does help with blood sugar control,” Murphy said.

As for leading to weight loss, Murphy said that’s still unclear and more research is needed.

“There aren’t a lot of studies showing a lot of weight loss on this. So there could be a placebo effect, people that are on it, you know, they’re losing weight, they’re probably cutting calories just on their own,” Murphy said.

Consult your doctor before trying, expert says

Murphy adds berberine is not regulated by the FDA and there could be side effects.

“There is constipation, diarrhea, there are things that other medications can interfere with,” Murphy said.

At the end of the day, Murphy advised before trying the supplement, it’s important to consult your doctor first.

“Go talk to their doctor about it, or dietitian as well, and see what they say. Because this is another example of something you have to take forever for it not only to lose the weight but keep the weight off,” Murphy said.

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