Berberine for Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Q. Hi, Dr. Dean,

I currently use your products and receive your Life Enhancement magazine. An article in your July issue, starting on pg. 11, states the benefits of berberine.

My wife is having memory problems consistent with Dementia/Alzheimer’s. She has not been examined by a doctor, but both of our mothers had Alzheimer’s. I have been trying different vitamins with her, and they have helped considerably. Her short-term memory is the most effected. As for me, my fasting blood sugar is around 120 so I have been taking your berberine-containing product for a couple of months now, and will continue if it helps. The berberine article suggests it may be beneficial for both pre-diabetes and Alzheimer’s. However I’m not sure which are the best products to use? Can you help?

RICHARD, Vernon, CT

A. Dear Richard,

You are correct that there appears to be a relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes is a real “aging-accelerator,” and seems to hasten the onset and progression of just about every other chronic degenerative disease. Scientists have recently confirmed this conjecture that diabetes seems to double the probability of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.1,2

I have long been a proponent of the anti-diabetic drug, Metformin, for its powerful anti-aging effects. It is not only an insulin receptor sensitizer, but also acts on the glucocorticoid (cortisol) receptors as well. Metformin normalizes the lipid profile, enhances the immune system, stimulates the release of growth hormone, and often causes reduction in body fat. In addition, it is considered the drug of choice for polycystic ovary disease. In July, 2011, Life Enhancement reviewed an article that compared the benefits of Metformin with berberine, in a large group of diabetic patients. The authors were surprised to report that Berberine was superior to Metformin.3 I think optimum results will be obtained by using both berberine and Metformin.

Consequently, I think you made a good choice to take Life Enhancement’s berberine blood-sugar support formulation. There is 625 mg of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) root extract per serving, which is 80% berberine. That equals 500 mg of berberine per serving. If you take three servings (1.5 g/day) you will get the dose used in most of the studies.

You might also consider elements of the Durk & Sandy glycemic control products to help maintain normal blood sugar levels—especially Erythritol as a sugar replacement. Although it tastes like sugar, and can be used as a direct replacement for sugar, it will not raise blood glucose or insulin levels.

With regard to berberine’s cognitive-enhancing effects, new research in India reported that it inhibits cholinesterase (ChE) activity and increases glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) release.2 ChE is the enzyme that breaks down the memory molecule acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is crucial for the important memory activities of focus and concentration. GLP-1 not only plays an important role in diabetes, but is also related to cognitive dysfunction, learning, and neuroprotection.4 In China, scientists have found that berberine helps prevent oxidation damage to biomolecules in the brain, inhibits enzymes which break down important memory molecules, reduces peptides that interfere with proper memory function, and lowers lipids that interfere with cerebral blood flow.5

Other potentially cognitive-enhancing nutrients that you might consider for your wife include vinpocetine (20–40 mg per day), phosphatidylserine (300 mg per day), bacopa (300 mg per day), and acetyl-L-carnitine (1,500 mg per day).

Ward Dean, M.D.

References

  1. Arvanitakis Z, Wilson RS, Bienias JL, Evans DA, Bennett DA. Diabetes mellitus and risk of Alzheimer disease and decline in cognitive function. Arch Neurol. 2004;61:661-6.
  2. Biessels GJ, Staekenborg S, Brunner E, Brayne C, Scheltens P. Risk of dementia in diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Lancet Neurol. 2006;5:64-74.
  3. Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008 May;57(5):712-7.
  4. Bhutada P, Mundhada Y, Bansod K, Tawari S, Patil S, Dixit P, Umathe S, Mundhada D. Protection of cholinergic and antioxidant system contributes to the effect of berberine ameliorating memory dysfunction in rat model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Behav Brain Res. 2011 Jan 22. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Ji HF, Shen L. Berberine: a potential multipotent natural product to combat Alzheimer’s disease. Molecules. 2011 Aug 9;16(8):6732-40.

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