Home Health & Fitness Warning over ‘nature’s own Ozempic’: Experts alarmed by viral TikTok weight loss drug

Warning over ‘nature’s own Ozempic’: Experts alarmed by viral TikTok weight loss drug

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Experts are concerned about TikTok’s newest health trend — a plant-based, weight loss supplement.

Videos highlighting the seemingly remarkable benefits of berberine capsules have racked up millions of views. 

Users rave about its ‘transformative’ effect which has helped them shed up to 18lbs.

The dietary supplement can be easily bought online, including on Amazon and eBay, for as little as 20p per pill.

But medics today urgently warned the trend ‘can be dangerous’ and raised serious concerns over its effectiveness.

In one video seen 2.7million times, @joeyzauzig, told his followers: 'I'm on the way to get "Nature's Ozempic", it's this supplement called berberine'

He added: 'The side effects don't seem that bad, some diarrhoea, some stomach upset, I'm down for a little bit of that. 'I think it was like 20 bucks. It's this little capsule'

The hashtag #berberine has racked up over 58million views on TikTok, with #berberineforweightloss hitting 1.7million. In one video seen 2.7million times, @joeyzauzig, told his followers: ‘I’m on the way to get “Nature’s Ozempic”, it’s this supplement called berberine.’ He added: ‘The side effects don’t seem that bad, some diarrhoea, some stomach upset, I’m down for a little bit of that. ‘I think it was like 20 bucks. It’s this little capsule.’

Users took to the comments section to share their own experiences of berberine, with one adding: 'week nine on berberine and down 18lbs'. A second, liked by 1,460 users, said: 'Two weeks in and down eight lbs'

Users took to the comments section to share their own experiences of berberine, with one adding: ‘week nine on berberine and down 18lbs’. A second, liked by 1,460 users, said: ‘Two weeks in and down eight lbs’

One clip with 1.7million views posted from the account @daphnunez says: 'Berberine is my favourite supplement for my weight loss clients just because it is extremely transformative. 'It's been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a number of metabolic health conditions like diabetes and obesity,' she adds

She tells her TikTok followers: 'Overall just a really great supplement if you're looking to lose weight'

One clip with 1.7million views posted from the account @daphnunez says: ‘Berberine is my favourite supplement for my weight loss clients just because it is extremely transformative. ‘It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a number of metabolic health conditions like diabetes and obesity,’ she adds. ‘Overall just a really great supplement if you’re looking to lose weight’

The traditional Chinese medicine is a natural compound derived from plants, which advocates say can tackle ailments such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and digestion problems. 

But the hashtag #berberine has racked up over 58million views on TikTok, with #berberineforweightloss hitting 1.7million.

In one video seen 2.7million times, @joeyzauzig, told his followers: ‘I’m on the way to get “Nature’s Ozempic”, it’s this supplement called berberine.’

He added: ‘The side effects don’t seem that bad, some diarrhoea, some stomach upset, I’m down for a little bit of that.  

What is berberine? 

Berberine is an organic compound found in plants like goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric.

Available to buy online including on Amazon or eBay, it is normally taken as a dietary supplement.

The capsules are also becoming increasingly popular among those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), to help balance hormones.

The hashtag #berberine has racked up over 58million views on TikTok, with #berberineforweightloss hitting 1.7million. 

But medics today urgently warned that when taken solely for weight loss, the tablets ‘can be dangerous’ and raised serious concerns over its effectiveness. 

Dr Simon Cork, a Senior Lecturer in Physiology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, told MailOnline: ‘I have only been able to find one clinical trial using berberine for weight loss.’ 

In the ‘very small’ trial involving just seven people, ‘there was no significant decrease in body weight observed over 6 weeks and indeed some patients gained weight during the study,’ he added. 

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

He told MailOnline: ‘However, using supplements can be dangerous as they can exacerbate eating disorder behaviours and make people more unwell. 

‘I think it was like 20 bucks. It’s this little capsule.’

Users then took to the comments section to share their own experiences of berberine, with one adding: ‘Week nine on berberine and down 18lbs’. 

A second, liked by 1,460 users, said: ‘Two weeks in and down eight lbs’. 

Blockbuster weight-loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy have earned rave reviews in recent months among influencers, celebrities and slimmers. 

The drugs work by binding to the GLP-1 receptor, a protein that triggers hormones in the brain that keep the stomach full and tell the body to stop eating and avoid cravings.

However, the mechanism behind berberine supposedly working as a weight loss supplement is unclear. Some research suggests it may increase the body’s metabolism but it is not thought to curb appetite.

Another clip with 1.7million views posted from the account @daphnunez says: ‘Berberine is my favourite supplement for my weight loss clients just because it is extremely transformative. 

‘It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a number of metabolic health conditions like diabetes and obesity,’ she adds.

‘Overall just a really great supplement if you’re looking to lose weight’. 

But 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.’ 

In the ‘very small’ trial involving just seven people, ‘there was no significant decrease in body weight observed over 6 weeks and indeed some patients gained weight during the study,’ he added. 

‘It is not true to refer to this as “natures Ozempic”, since they both work in very different ways,’ he said. 

‘There is some evidence that berberine it has a slight effect on increasing metabolism by increasing the utilisation of glucose. 

‘This is very different to the way Ozempic, Wegovy or semaglutide works — which is by directly decreasing appetite — because 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 weigh back up.’

The supplement could also affect the ‘metabolism of other drugs’, which may reduce their effectiveness or lead to their build up within the body, he added. 

‘It’s important to understand that for those people who do struggle with being overweight or obese, the desperation to find effective treatments can lead them to believe unsubstantiated claims,’ he said. 

‘Especially when those touting these products use complex scientific terms — with the aim of coating their claims in a veneer of authenticity.’ 

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

One video watched over 1.1million times @beingsavv shared before and after photographs using the supplement for 30 days. She said: 'So last week I lost 0.5lbs, so the scale still went down, bring my total in 30 days to 6.5lbs, which is major for me.'

She added: 'So I started berberine because I was doing all the right things, working out, calorie deficit, eating right and my weight was increasing instead of decreasing'

One video watched over 1.1million times @beingsavv shared before and after photographs using the supplement for 30 days. She said: ‘So last week I lost 0.5lbs, so the scale still went down, bring my total in 30 days to 6.5lbs, which is major for me.’ She added: ‘So I started berberine because I was doing all the right things, working out, calorie deficit, eating right and my weight was increasing instead of decreasing’

Responding to a comment, @beingsavv said she took 1800mg a day of the supplement and used the brand nutriflair

Responding to a comment, @beingsavv said she took 1800mg a day of the supplement and used the brand nutriflair

In another clip, seen more than 83,000 times, @briana_parra2 shared before and after photos of seven months of berberine usage

'I use puritans pride 500mg', she told a user who commented on her video

In another clip, seen more than 83,000 times, @briana_parra2 shared before and after photos of seven months of berberine usage. ‘I use puritans pride 500mg’, she told a user who commented on her video

She started noticing she was losing weight 'about a month or so after being consistent', she added

'Be consistent, things will change and the scale will move,' she wrote

She started noticing she was losing weight ‘about a month or so after being consistent’, she added. ‘Be consistent, things will change and the scale will move,’ she wrote

Known common side effects of the capsules include diarrhoea, constipation, stomach discomfort and nausea. 

Medics advise avoiding berberine when pregnant, with research finding the supplement could in some cases cause jaundice in infants and even increase the risk of kernicterus, a type of brain damage that can prove fatal. 

Meanwhile a spokesperson at the National Centre for Eating Disorders (NCFED) told MailOnline the supplement was ‘another quick fix solution to a complex problem’. 

It said: ‘Berberine will not sort out the emotional eating, the mindset and social issues that cause obesity. 

‘They will waste their money and some people will lose weight because they will think they are doing something positive and this is called the placebo effect.

The NCFED added: ‘Calling it “natures 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.

‘You want to control your blood sugar? Eat porridge, plenty of fibre, and a wide range of proteins including meat and oily fish. And get off your phones and go for a walk.’

Yet recent TikTok videos include @beingsavv, who shared before and after photographs using the supplement for 30 days.

In the video watched over 1.1million times, she said: ‘So last week I lost 0.5lbs, so the scale still went down, bring my total in 30 days to 6.5lbs, which is major for me.’ 

She added: ‘So I started berberine because I was doing all the right things, working out, calorie deficit, eating right and my weight was increasing instead of decreasing.’

Using the brand nutriflair and taking 1800mg of the supplement per day, she said: ‘You can see how much my stomach has gone down, obviously I still have a long way to go but to me this is progress and I am super excited about it’. 

In another clip, seen more than 83,000 times, @briana_parra2 shared before and after photos of seven months of berberine usage.

‘I use puritans pride 500mg’, she told her commenters. 

She started noticing she was losing weight ‘about a month or so after being consistent’, she added. 

‘Be consistent, things will change and the scale will move.’ 

Limited research has shown berberine can control hunger and fullness. 

In a study published in the journal Obesity, participants who took berberine experienced reduced appetite and cravings compared to the placebo group. 

The researchers attributed these effects to berberine’s influence on the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite. 

The supplement has also been found to inhibit the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme responsible for storing fat in the body. 

A study involving mice, published in the journal Molecular Medicine Reports, found the supplement significantly decreased fat accumulation in the livers of mice fed a high-fat diet. 

Researchers hypothesized berberine may help prevent excessive fat storage and promote healthy weight management.

But Bridget Benelam, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, told MailOnline: ‘There are some studies that have looked at the effects of berberine on different health outcomes including weight loss and blood sugar control – but most of these have been in animals or in test tubes and there are few clinical trials in humans.’

She added: ‘So, research on the effects of berberine is at a very early stage and people need to be really cautious in following weight loss advice from social media trends without getting proper medical support. 

‘Healthy weight loss involves rebalancing the diet and controlling portion sizes to make sure you are getting both the right quality and quantity of food for you.’

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at 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. 

‘Eating disorder screening must be carried out for every person wanting to buy weight loss supplements, to ensure that those with eating disorders are not able to access them. 

‘There must also be more education about the dangers and harmful side effects of using medication to lose weight.’

  • If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s health, you can contact Beat, 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or beateatingdisorders.org.uk.  

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