Andrew Huberman’s Thoughts on Berberine
This article, “Andrew Huberman’s Thoughts on Berberine,” is the continuation of a series of articles I refer to as “Cliff Notes” for Huberman’s long-form podcasts on a variety of health topics. It took him mentioning berberine, a powerful supplement derived from tree bark, three times before it really grabbed my attention. He mentions it in episodes entitled “How to Burn Fat,” “Reduce Your Appetite,” & “Slow & Reverse Aging” ~ & frankly, all of those things sound good! So here, I will decode in layman’s terms the benefits (& any potential side effects) of taking berberine.
“Berberine has very strong effects in lowering blood glucose; in fact, berberine is one of the most powerful supplements, if not THE most powerful, for lowering blood glucose. Its actions actually mimic & are nearly identical to Metformin.
[The effect this has is to] shift the body towards more fat-burning.”
– Andrew Huberman, Ph.D, Neuroscientist
Andrew Huberman Podcasts on Berberine
In the “How to Lose Fat with Science-Based Tools” episode below, scroll ahead to the 1 hour, 40 minute mark ~ this is where he specifically discusses berberine (& Metformin) as weight-loss tools.
In “How Our Hormones Control Our Hunger, Eating, & Satiety,” scroll ahead to the 1 hour, 16 minute mark for a longer discussion of Huberman’s thoughts on berberine. While the supplement personally gives him a headache, he also says that he was able to eat 10 donuts & feel virtually zero blood sugar issues due to this powerful compound (though he obviously does not recommend doing that)!!!
But the point is: berberine can stabilize blood sugar so much that it forcefully blunts the effects of larger meals, or poor meal choices. When paired with a healthy diet however, it can radically shift your body from a sugar-burning machine to a fat-burning machine.
David Sinclair & Huberman on Berberine
In the episode with longevity expert & Harvard Professor of Genetics, David Sinclair, called “The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Aging” ~ I really started to get interested in berberine. Instead of purely thinking of it as a weight-loss tool, Sinclair in fact regards both Metformin and berberine as potential anti-aging tools.
Sinclair started noticing that, every year, his blood glucose levels were rising ~ even though his diet & exercise hadn’t changed much. As an expert in the field of longevity, Sinclair knew that elevated blood sugar levels are associated with numerous markers of poor health: diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, chronic inflammation, etc. So by stabilizing one’s blood sugar with the use of tools such as Metformin & berberine: the result is often weight loss & a powerful reduction of insulin, which inevitably leads to better health & longevity.
Scroll to the 44-minute mark of their discussion below to hear why Sinclair personally uses Metformin (almost daily), as a tool for lowering his blood glucose & increasing longevity.
***Note on Side Effects: If you listen to the conversations above, you’ll notice a few side effects mentioned: headache is a possible side effect of berberine; & the most common side effect for both berberine & Metformin is stomach upset. For most people, this resolves in about 2 weeks; but for about 20% of people, it won’t. Some also report a metallic taste in the mouth after taking Metformin, but overall: both supplements have very high safety profiles.
Speak with your doctor before trying any new supplement, particularly if you’re currently on medication: as both Metformin & berberine may interact with certain medications.
My Main Take-Aways on Berberine
The main take-away I’m getting from these discussions on Metformin & berberine is this: because both dramatically reduce blood sugar, this in turn dramatically reduces insulin. And as Huberman says, when your body stops being so busy pumping out insulin all the time (as it does with a high-sugar diet, for instance), it can now switch gears & turn to FAT as its main energy source, rather than sugar.
This is what people on ketogenic (or “Keto) diets are often trying to achieve: optimal fat burning. It’s also why so many of them lose dramatic amounts of weight. But as Huberman & many fitness professionals note, a Keto diet (high protein/very low carb) is extremely hard to maintain over a long period of time.
Metformin & berberine may help the body achieve similar results without the complete loss of carbs.
The Role of Hormones & Berberine
When we think of hormones, ones like estrogen, testosterone, & progesterone leap to mind. But the truth is, we all share two far more important hormones, that actually rule over the others: & these are insulin & cortisol. They are master hormones, if you will. They control whether you’re famished, “hangry” (hungry & angry), stressed, or calm. Thus, if these two players are out of whack, nothing else you do will matter much: they are simply too powerful.
I think that’s why I find this discussion on berberine so interesting: if you can take a supplement that so powerfully is able to regulate insulin, one of your master hormones ~ how many “symptoms” & other health problems might fall into line? How many of our health issues are actually related to poor insulin levels & an excess of sugar in our diets?
The final question I pose is this: would you rather have your body be a lean, mean fat-burning machine ~ or a short-lived, short-fused sugar burning, waist-expanding one? Both Metformin & berberine are tools that can help get blood sugar in check, so that your body can perform optimally.
Andrew Huberman’s Thoughts on Berberine
By all means, I will repeat: check with your doctor before taking any new supplements. But if you do wish to try berberine as a means of controlling blood sugar, Thorne’s Berberine is a highly trusted brand that is made & manufactured in the USA.
Follow Huberman’s recommendation to start with the lowest possible dose, & see how you feel before proceeding ~ more is not better. These are powerful substances, & should be treated with caution.
Read Next: Andrew Huberman’s Top Sleep Supplements