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Experts speak out against 'dangerous' new berberine weight loss trend

Rhiannon Ingle

Published 
| Last updated 

Content warning: this article contains references to disordered eating.

Experts have spoken out against the 'dangerous' new berberine weight-loss trend making its rounds all over social media at the moment.

The plant-based supplement has since been likened to the controversial weight-loss jab after being hailed as 'nature's Ozempic' and people are going absolutely wild for it on TikTok. But of course, just because you see something online, doesn't mean you should copy it.

Health professionals are now warning people about the dietary supplement health trend after content creators flocked to the platform to rave about the supposed life-changing qualities of berberine capsules.

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Health professionals are warning people against the 'dangerous' health trend. Credit: TikTok/@daphnunez
Health professionals are warning people against the 'dangerous' health trend. Credit: TikTok/@daphnunez

Many users have talked about the supplement's alleged 'transformative' effect, with one claiming it helped them lose up to 18 pounds.

Advocates of berberine also allege the supplements can tackle a whole load of ailments including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and digestion problems.

One TikTok with over 1.9 million views posted from Daphne Nunez says: "Berberine is my favourite supplement for my weight loss clients just because it is extremely transformative.

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"It's been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a number of metabolic health conditions like diabetes and obesity."

Nunez added: "Overall just a really great supplement if you're looking to lose weight."

Following the craze, experts are now warning the internet that the viral health trend - which has clocked up over 50 million views on TikTok - 'can be dangerous'.

People have flocked to TikTok to rave over the viral health trend. Credit: TikTok/@daphnunez
People have flocked to TikTok to rave over the viral health trend. Credit: TikTok/@daphnunez
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Dr Simon Cork, a senior lecturer in physiology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, told MailOnline: "I have found no evidence for almost any of the claims spoken about in these videos.

"I have only been able to find one clinical trial using berberine for weight loss."

The expert continued to reference a 'very small' trial involving just seven people in which it was found that 'there was no significant decrease in body weight observed over six weeks and indeed some patients gained weight during the study'.

Directly responding to one of the rave views of the weight-loss capsule, Cork stated: "It is not true to refer to this as 'nature's Ozempic' since they both work in very different ways."

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He explained that weight-loss jabs like Ozempic and Wegovy work by 'directly decreasing appetite' whereas berberine 'is not decreasing appetite'.

"Any lowering effect on body weight will be met with a concomitant increase in hunger levels, which will act to drive body weight back up," he highlighted.

Other common side effects of berberine include diarrhoea, constipation, stomach discomfort and nausea.

Some people have likened berberine to 'nature's Ozempic' - which experts have said is not true. Credit: TikTok/@joeyzauzig
Some people have likened berberine to 'nature's Ozempic' - which experts have said is not true. Credit: TikTok/@joeyzauzig
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A spokesperson at the National Centre for Eating Disorders (NCFED) also supported Cork's statements, telling the MailOnline that the supplement was 'another quick-fix solution to a complex problem'.

They said: "Calling it 'nature's Ozempic' is dangerous marketing. Ozempic has a very specific action for weight loss that is nothing to do with how berberine is purported to work."

The CEO of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM), Alex Jacobs, has also spoken out against the trend.

They told the outlet: "The irresponsible use of a herbal extract as a quick-fix and risky weight-loss technique goes completely against the high standards practice of Chinese herbal medicine.

"Professionally trained RCHM members only dispense herbal medicines after a consultation that takes into account the individual safety needs of the patient."

Berberine can also be 'harmful' to those who struggle with disordered eating.

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at the eating disorder charity Beat, told MailOnline: "Weight-loss supplements like berberine can be very attractive to people with eating disorders as they seemingly offer fast results.

"However, using supplements can be dangerous as they can exacerbate eating disorder behaviours and make people more unwell."

Quinn went on to declare that an 'eating disorder screening' must be carried out for anyone looking to purchase such weight loss supplements to 'ensure that those with eating disorders are not able to access them'.

He added: "There must also be more education about the dangers and harmful side-effects of using medication to lose weight."

Nutritionist scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, Bridget Benelam, explained that the effects of berberine are still at a 'very early stage'.

Because of this, people have been warned to be 'really cautious' when it comes to following supposed weight-loss advice from social media trends without getting proper medical guidance.

Those struggling with their weight should speak to their GP, who can talk to them about scientifically and clinically proven methods of weight loss.

If you've been affected by any of the issues in this article and would like to speak with someone in confidence, call the BEAT Eating Disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677. Helplines are open 365 days a year from 9am–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Alternatively, you can try the one-to-one webchat

Topics: Health, Science, TikTok, Life, Mental Health

Rhiannon Ingle
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