Metformin vs Berberine: Which is the Better Choice?

Metformin vs Berberine: Which is the Better Choice?

Quick overview of what you’ll learn from this blog post:

  • What is Metformin?
  • What is Berberine?
  • Why Metformin is probably a better choice (for now)
  • How we can help with Metformin

So, you’ve been reading up on Metformin and Berberine and wondering if either of them could be right for helping you hit your longevity goals. While we have already covered Metformin in quite a lot of detail in some of our other blog posts, we haven’t written much yet about Berberine, so we thought we would take a look at putting these two promising compounds side by side.

But before we share our thoughts, let’s have a quick overview.

What is Metformin?

You may have heard that Metformin comes from French lilac or goat’s rue (Galega officinalis), but that’s not entirely accurate. Just before World War 1, scientists looking at the toxic substance guanidine identified a less toxic alkaloid, galegine, which briefly was used as a treatment for diabetes.

However, despite being less toxic than guanidine, galegine presented toxicity issues too–but it was through researching galegine that scientists in Dublin first synthesised metformin in 1922. So while Metformin did come from French lilac in a roundabout way, it is a synthetic drug, rather than a natural supplement. Fast forward to today, and metformin is now the fourth-most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with an excellent safety profile.

What is Berberine?

Unlike Metformin, Berberine is a natural chemical found in several plants, including European barberry, goldenseal, goldthread, greater celandine, Oregon grape, phellodendron, and tree turmeric. But just because Berberine is a naturally occurring compound doesn’t mean it is necessarily any better or safer than Metformin. In fact, much less safety data exists for Berberine than for Metformin, so for now, it’s too early to say whether Berberine is truly safe to take. One thing we know for sure is that Berberine inhibits two particular enzymes involved in the metabolism of several prescription drugs, so Berberine should only ever even be considered after consulting with your doctor.

Which is the better choice?

The way we see it, there are a few important things to consider:

  1. Metformin has been studied a lot more than Berberine
    In fact, there have been 1600 completed clinical trials of Metformin, compared to just 34 for Berberine. So, to put it mildly, Metformin’s safety profile is many times more established than that of Berberine.
  2. It’s very hard to trust the quality of Berberine supplements sold online
    Unlike Metformin, which is subject to strict pharmacy board purity and potency standards, Berberine is classed as a dietary supplement, and the quality controls for supplements are notoriously lax. In one study of Berberine supplements, 60% failed to meet potency standards. This can be seen as part of an emerging trend identified by the FDA where over-the-counter products aren’t really what they say they are, and often contain hidden ingredients that can be harmful.
  3. Berberine has very poor oral bioavailability
    Berberine’s bioavailability is less than 1%, whereas Metformin’s is up to 60%. So when it comes to activating AMPK and delivering longevity benefits to cells around your body, it’s hard to imagine even pure Berberine being able to have as much of a positive effect as Metformin.

For these reasons, we believe Metformin is likely the better choice for now. Berberine is still being studied, and while Berberine and its derivatives are showing quite a lot of promise for treating a variety of diseases, we believe it’s too early to recommend Berberine to our patients, however, you should always consult with a medical professional prior to beginning any new treatment.

How can we help with Metformin?

Bottom line, we believe the science is clear: Metformin can be a sensible choice for those looking to stay on top of their health.

For a free online evaluation with a licensed medical professional who you can speak to about Metformin, click here.