Berberine and Your Peroxisomes

August 15, 2021

Berberine and Your Peroxisomes

It was an innocent question. "Should I still be taking berberine for my diabetes?" Berberine has been used for some 3,000 years in India, China, Assyria....for a whole variety of conditions. It is no mild drug, and certainly has a whole host of beneficial effects for diabetes. Now, I had a client who had wanted to lose weight years ago and had been taking an over-the-counter form of berberine for years. There is clearly benefit for diabetics to use berberine. It has a beneficial effect on fatty liver, cholesterol, glucose levels. So, "Yes, keep taking it."  

But wait! There's is so much more. Cholesterol levels are all about peroxisome function and right now, we are consumed by a pandemic of COVID-19. The folks most at risk for COVID-19 are diabetics. There must be an overlap. And indeed, there is. In fact, this thread is stunning. It gets right to the central nugget of cell metabolism. Follow this thread and enjoy the ride! Maybe you will protect yourself a little from COVID!

First of all, for a virus to get into a cell, it has to attach to something, and then fuse with the membrane of the cell. Plasmalogens are the lipids that have the ability to "shape-shift", allowing a membrane to fuse. Plasmalogens are made in the peroxisomes, adjacent to mitochondria and often attached to the outer membrane of the cell. One of the key features of diabetes is plasmalogen dysfunction, resulting in high blood cholesterol.

Just to remind you what a peroxisome is. It is the organelle in the cell that is the mitochondria's partner. It chops up fats and feeds the pieces into the mitochondria to generate energy. It duplicates in partnership with the mitochondria, and indeed, is passed onto subsequent cells when a cell divides, much like mitochondria. It gets most of its proteins from the nucleus of the cell but otherwise acts like an independent little body, doing its own thing. And it makes plasmalogens, those most precious of lipids that play a pivotal in many diseases of aging. In fact, low plasmalogens predict heart disease better than cholesterol. They predict death better than any other single marker and their repair and replenishment might be the single most beneficial health function we can do in our "middle years".

So what is the berberine connection? Aha! Berberine is a potent PPAR agonist. PPAR? Sounds like Greek. PPAR is Perixosome Proliferator-Activated Receptor. Berberine turns on the proliferation of peroxisomes. Ah! And AMPK. That's the signal that Metformin turns on....that activates your peroxisomes. Berberine activates AMPK too.

So, berberine is no shrinking violet. We have a superhero supplement here that turns on all the most basic mechanisms in our bodies. Peroxisome function plays a spooky role in COVID, raising the specter that it might be beneficial as a strategy, but that hasn't been studied or proven. But healthy plasmalogens come from healthy peroxisomes. And healthy peroxisomes are stimulated by berberine.

www.What will Work for Me? A better strategy than berberine to fix your peroxisomes is actually ketosis....intermittent fasting. Skip breakfast and exercise instead. You will burn up all your stored glycogen and then nudge your body into ketosis. That is the best signal to make more and healthier peroxisomes. And that is the better strategy to fix your diabetes. Ultimately, weight loss and blood glucose control come from those strategies.....and those strategies come from avoiding processed foods.

References: Frontiers Pharm, Front BioSci., Biochem Pharmacol., J Cell Sci, Trends in Endocrinology, Biochem Biophys Acta, Trends Microbiol., DNA Cell Biology, Diabetes, Cell Host and Microbe, J Clinical Invest., Eur J of Pharm.,Innate Immunity, Frontiers in Physiology,

Pop Quiz

1. What is Berberine? Answer: An easily purchased supplement with very impressive effects on lipids and blood glucose for those with borderline diabetes. It has been used in traditional medicine from Babylon to Beijing to Mumbai for over 3,000 years.

2. How come my doctor never prescribes it? Answer: Too cheap, not advertised, and not regulated. You get almost the same thing with all the other PPAR agonists like Actos (pioglitazone).

3. What is the benefit of berberine? Answer: it stimulates your peroxisomes to be more efficient and manage cholesterol better.

4. What else do healthy peroxisomes do? Answer: Make the most important lipids in your body, plasmalogens.

5. So, you might argue that berberine is the first "plasmalogen" drug? Answer: Yup. Been around for 3,000 years. Now we know why it works.