Plant-derived berberine could slow diabetes-related decline, research suggests

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02 Nov 2017 --- Researchers studying the natural, plant-derived compound berberine have linked its anti-inflammatory activity and ability to regulate levels of stress-response proteins including sirtuin to berberine’s positive effects on memory loss and impaired learning. In addition to improving diabetic encephalopathy and slowing central nervous system degeneration, berberine was also associated with better lipid metabolism and decreased fasting glucose in aging diabetic mice.

The article based on the researchers’ study was authored by a team of researchers from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, led by Shi-Jie Zhang and Yun-Bo Chen. The researchers focused on the effects of berberine on a stress protein-mediated signaling pathway in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

Diabetes can induce ER stress and has been linked to hyperglycemia-induced dysfunction of neuronal synapses in the brain and cognitive impairment. Based on the results of this study, the authors concluded that berberine might be able to protect against the effects of diabetic encephalopathy by intervening in the SIRT1/ER stress pathway.

“Diabetes is a key example of the intertwined nature of age-related decline in different tissues; though it nominally centers on excess fat and glycogen storage, the brain cannot escape its effects,” says Editor-in-Chief Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey, SENS Research Foundation, Mountain View, California, US.

Click to Enlarge“While we continue the development of bona fide repair (i.e. rejuvenation) therapies for such damage, it is vital to identify the most effective ‘stopgaps’ that we can provide already,” de Grey adds. “Here it is shown that berberine must be considered a highly promising intervention for diabetic encephalopathy.”

The article based on the study, entitled “Berberine Improves Diabetic Encephalopathy Through the SIRT1/ER Stress Pathway in db/db Mice,” was reported in Rejuvenation Research, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free on the Rejuvenation Research website until November 30, 2017.

Innova Market Insights data show that globally between 2012 and 2017, 41 percent of supplement launches tracked with berberine as a nutritional value feature digestive/liver health claims, while 28 percent feature diabetes-related claims. 

Further data show that 44 percent of supplement launches tracked featuring berberine (as nutritional value) are botanical/herbal supplements, with a further 26 percent noted to be softgel capsules, tablets or powders

It is important to note that the number of launches with berberine is still limited, however, with a clear majority reported in the US. The addition of berberine as a supplement is still in its infancy, although further research into its benefits is likely to support its growing prevalence in NPD. 

By Lucy Gunn

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