Ozempic vs. berberine

TikTokers (who else?) have found a “natural” alternative to Ozempic in berberine, a chemical found in plants like barberry and goldenseal.

Driving the news: Per Wired, TikTok influencers are fuelling the surge in summer sales for berberine, a supplement nicknamed “nature’s Ozempic,” a play on the popular type 2 diabetes drug that became a phenomenon when it was discovered to cause weight loss.

  • One company selling the product has seen sales increase more than 165% in the second quarter of 2023 so far, compared to sales in the same period last year.

  • “I can’t think of another example where something has gone viral to this extent,” a director at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, told Wired. 

If something sounds too good to be true… 

… it probably is. Health professionals don’t recommend popping berberine for weight loss. Its antibiotic properties can build a person’s resistance to life-saving drugs, and its impact on enzymes can affect how other drugs break down. It can also reduce insulin resistance. 

Zoom out: Despite ongoing investigations into the potentially life-threatening side effects of the new generation of weight loss drugs, sales for Ozempic have surged by 23% so far this year, and sales for the broader market are expected to balloon to US$44 billion by 2030.

  • Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed against the manufacturers of Ozempic and Mounjaro over claims that the drugs can cause gastroparesis, a paralysis of the stomach. 

Bottom line: Consumers are so excited about the prospect of easily losing weight that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to drawbacks, to medical or alternative interventions.—SB