Welcome to TikTok Debunked, a series where Yahoo Canada digs into the truth behind popular TikTok health, beauty and food trends.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
In recent weeks, a natural supplement called berberine has become the buzzed-about topic on social media — especially TikTok.
In recent weeks, Yahoo Canada has dug into similar TikTok trends, like "Ozempic butt" and "skinny girl shots." Now, we had to get the scoop on whether viral claims that "berberine is nature's Ozempic" are real or just clickbait.
Read on for everything you need to know about the trend and expert opinions.
The claim — and how it started
A number of TikTok users have claimed the natural supplement berberine is "nature's Ozempic."
The tag "berberine" on TikTok has surpassed 100 million views.
Ozempic, a drug originally intended for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, has been increasingly used by people simply wanting to shed unwanted weight. That interest has even led to a shortage for type 2 diabetes patients in need earlier this year.
Some TikTok users have made claims on their social channels claiming that berberine, the plant-derived substance, aids in reducing appetite and blood sugar levels, making it similar to the diabetes drug.
What is berberine?
Berberine is a bitter and yellow-coloured chemical found in some plants like European barberry, goldenseal, phellodendron and tree turmeric.
According to Canadian naturopathic doctor Caitlyn Keates, it acts as an "antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent that is useful to treat bacterial, fungal, parasitic and other microbes."
It can also help with "digestive relief in SIBO, inflammatory bowel disease, and many other gastrointestinal ailments," she added.
In addition, studies show that berberine can significantly lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, Healthline reported.
Comparing side-effects to Ozempic
Keates said though there is evidence that side-effects of berberine may be similar to that of Ozempic, in terms of weight loss due to balancing of blood lipids and insulin among others, that doesn't tell the whole story.
"It does have a different mechanism of action and intention to prescription than Ozempic," Keates said. "It does not have any supportive positive research to be comparable to Ozempic for the treatment of weight loss."
A Quebec family doctor who works with fly-in communities in Northern Canada with high rates of diabetes and obesity echoed that concern.
Dr. Ryan Gale explained Ozempic, the drug name many are familiar with, is a semaglutide medication that works by mimicking a hormone released by the body when the user consumes food, thereby reducing their appetite.
There is no reliable evidence to support the statement that berberine is nature’s Ozempic.Dr. Ryan Gale
Other semaglutide drugs include Rybelsus, Wegovy and Trulicity.
"Ozempic is an excellent tool that I consider primarily for the treatment of diabetes, but also for weight loss when someone is experiencing complications from obesity like sleep apnea, fatty liver and hypertension," he added.
But when it comes to berberine, Gale said there's simply not enough evidence to draw the comparison.
"There is no reliable evidence to support the statement that berberine is nature's Ozempic," he concluded.
Is it debunked?
In summary, Ozempic is a drug that is mainly used for the treatment of diabetes and weight loss, while berberine is a natural supplement that can improve insulin resistance, while also aiding in digestive relief.
With both experts in agreement on the lack of research to back up sensational internet claims, berberine and Ozempic remain two different entities — with no scientific data of overlap.
After studying the trend and having both experts weigh in, Yahoo Canada has debunked the statement "berberine is nature's Ozempic."
As for social media readily becoming a space for sharing health information, Gale warned influencers may spread "potentially harmful health content" on their platforms.
"I would encourage everyone to rely on trained professionals for health advice and to get off social media."