A large proportion of our society (36.9% at last estimate) now suffers from “metabolic syndrome.” Metabolic syndrome, which greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is defined as having at least three of the five following conditions:
- abdominal obesity (waist circumference greater than 102 cm in men or 88 cm in women)
- high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure at least 130 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure at least 85 mm Hg or taking hypertension medications)
- high blood sugar(fasting plasma glucose level at least 100 mg/dL or taking diabetes medications)
- high triglycerides (greater than 150 mg/dL)
- low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women)
Epidemiological studies link fructose found in table sugar (a combination of fructose and glucose) and high fructose corn syrup with metabolic syndrome, but it’s been hard to prove causality. Obesity is associated with the disease, but since many normal weight people develop it, obesity can’t be the cause.
Although the cause of metabolic syndrome is unknown, it is considered a disorder of energy utilization and storage.
This indicates that berberine, which activates the enzyme AMPk, the “master regulating switch” for energy metabolism, could play a pivotal in reversing metabolic syndrome.
According to Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO, “AMPk induces a cascade of events within cells that are all involved in maintaining energy homeostasis. The AMPk system senses and responds to changes in energy metabolism both on the cellular & the whole-body level. . . . AMPk regulates an array of biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose, & energy imbalances. Metabolic syndrome occurs when these AMPk-regulated pathways are turned off, triggering a syndrome that includes hyperglycemia, diabetes, lipid abnormalities, & energy imbalances.”
Indeed, AMPk has been proposed as a monotherapy for treating metabolic syndrome. Whereas current treatment uses three to five different medications to manage the different aspects of metabolic syndrome—high blood sugar, hypertension, high triglycerides, low HDL, fatty liver and inflammation— controlling the AMPK switch could normalize all of them.
Various clinical studies have shown that berberine addresses all of these dysfunctions.
Exercise and calorie restriction also activate AMPK, whereas high fat intake, overeating and lethargy inhibit it.
It would make sense, then, to combine a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and calorie restriction, with a foundational supplement program (see Beyond Health’s suggested Wellness Kits for various levels of health) and berberine to prevent and reverse metabolic syndrome.
- Hirode G. Trends in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the United States, 2011-2016. Journal of the American Medical Association. June 2020;323(24):2526-2526.
- Schor J. Clinical applications for berberine: Potential applications in metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia. Natural Medicine Journal. December 2012;4(12). Accessed online February 2, 2021.
- Hwang JT. AMP-activated protein kinase: a potential target for the diseases prevention by natural occurring polyphenols. Nature Biotechnology. October 2009;26(1-2):17-22.