‘Nature’s Ozempic’ Berberine Gains Popularity Online but Experts Warn against Using it for Weight Loss

‘Nature’s Ozempic’ Berberine Gains Popularity Online but Experts Warn against Using it for Weight Loss

Dietician Marissa Meshulam claims that discussions regarding weight loss drugs are “everywhere” nowadays.

She has observed a spike in popularity and debate about the drugs Wegovy and Ozempic, which contain the active component semaglutide and were first developed for type 2 diabetes.

Everyone wants to get their hands on semaglutide since it has been shown to have weight reduction effects and has also received FDA approval for usage in individuals who qualify.

Many people find it to be unaffordable, therefore, some turn to a cheaper substitute called Berberine, a dietary supplement made from plants.

Semaglutide-containing medications are “so expensive,” Savannah Crosby pointed out via Yahoo Life.

She claims that after experiencing mysterious weight gain in spite of years of effort to drop some pounds, she looked into the medication.

“I was doing all the ‘right things’ — tracking my calories, prioritizing protein, working out and all that. And my scale was increasing. It was going up. That was a red flag to me that there is something not right with my body,” she said about her experience.

She then discovered Berberine while looking into alternatives to a medication that contained semaglutide.

The 34 year old added that “I saw that it helps with insulin resistance, it helps PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome]— some of the things that I do struggle with.”

Since Crosby started using Berberine a few months ago, the dietary supplement—which derives from the barberry plant—has earned the moniker “nature’s Ozempic.”

This is mostly due to “appetite-suppressive effects people are describing anecdotally,” as well as weight reduction, according to Dr. Priya Jaisinghani, who specializes in obesity medicine.

However, the science around Berberine does not support those assertions.

Jaisinghani made it more clear that “It is used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda to treat a variety of ailments, including infections, inflammation and gastrointestinal issues. As a supplement, it is marketed to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.”

In fact, she claims that the drug could be more appropriately compared to Metformin, which, unlike semaglutide, is not licensed for the management of weight loss but is used for treating patients with type 2 diabetes.

“Using Metformin alone, with a sort of oral antidiabetic medicine known as sulfonylurea, or with insulin, will help lower blood sugar when it is too high and help restore the way you use food to make energy,” the Mayo Clinic advises.

According to Michelle Cardel, a nutrition scientist and dietitian, Berberine’s medical usefulness has not been established in the same way that the aforementioned therapies have.

She explains that “There is some preliminary data suggesting that Berberine may help with glucose control for individuals living with diabetes, though the magnitude of the effect on glucose control does not parallel that which we see with Ozempic. Additionally, there is not sufficient high-quality data to support that Berberine is an effective mechanism for weight loss. Based on the scientific data that is currently available, it’s not accurate to compare the effectiveness of Ozempic to Berberine.”

Specialists have been debating the efficacy of Ozempic in reducing the signs and symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome, and some studies have centered on the same effects of Berberine.

The results, according to Cardel, are scanty.

She also pointed out that “Many of the studies conducted to date are of low quality and use small sample sizes, so additional research is needed before we can confidently establish berberine as a safe and effective method for improving these conditions.”

Crosby noted that for the time being, it looks like the supplement has been helping.

“In that first week, when I weighed myself and the scale went down, as opposed to going up, I was like, ‘This is working.’ And I was sold on it.”

On her TikTok account, she has been discussing her experience with this supplement.

She has claimed that she has dropped between 7 and 8 pounds in no more than 2 months and that she “was not really desiring any sweets or wanting to snack all day.”

People’s interest in such updates has led many to consider taking the supplement themselves, and she has gained a following as a result.

Crosby shared that “I do get a lot of questions of people asking me what dose should they take or telling me the symptoms that they’re feeling and [asking] what should they do. Which is super interesting, because they know I’m not a doctor. But I guess because I have been so upfront and honest about my entire experience, they just feel comfortable in asking me.”

30 year old influencer and The Real Friends of WeHo star Joey Zauzig, has done the same.

Before choosing to test the supplement himself and share his experience with others, he says he had been observing others’ berberine journeys on the app, according to Yahoo Life.

He said that “I thought it would be helpful, and then it ended up, you know, blowing up into what it has been now.”

Since then, Zauzig has posted vlog-style updates discussing how he’s changed the dosage of the supplement, whenever he takes it, and how it has affected his bowel movements.

Zauzig noted a 7-pound weight loss earlier this month.

He stressed that “Berberine definitely wasn’t a weight loss journey type of thing for me. I just always focus on having a healthy gut and making sure my body is as healthy as it can be. I’m not someone who really focuses on weight. … So for me, it was just a way to feel my best. Then guess what? It worked, and it cleared out my gut and it made me digest.”

Furthermore, he also admitted that the so-called “Ozempic craze” has played into people’s interest in anything and everything promoted as weight loss solutions.

“Kind of feeling like there’s a quick fix for people with body image issues,” he says. “And that’s not true, and that’s not the way it should be looked at.”

With that being said, Meshulam made sure to warn that “Weight loss at any cost can be really dangerous.”

Although anecdotal reports of the supplement’s benefits have surfaced, experts caution against putting too much trust in any health or medical information found online.

Jaisinghani says that “Along with reliable information, there is also misinformation, disinformation, personal experiences on these platforms. Always be sure to contact your doctor to discuss health or medical information seen on social media, and come up with a plan jointly regarding your health, that is safe and individualized to you.”

The personal choices that Crosby and Zauzig have taken regarding their continuing usage of the supplement have been discussed.

While they both want to continue using Berberine, they have also spoken about taking breaks periodically.

Zauzig made it clear that “I can’t really speak to how other people take it, or tell or guide people how to take it.”

If someone wants to lose weight, this is really important, according to Cardel.

She says that “Focusing heavily on a number on the scale, rather than overall holistic and preventative health, is a recipe for people to misuse medications and supplements. Prescription medications for weight loss have strict FDA criteria, but there are significantly less restrictions with supplements, so I would highly encourage anyone considering taking Berberine as a supplement to first discuss it with your health care provider.”


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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