Metformin vs Berberine. Which Is More Effective for Diabetes?

This oral medication for diabetes, helps to control blood sugar levels. It is generally used in combination with dietary changes and exercise to help improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes.

Metformin is a generic name, brand names include: Fortamet, Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, Riomet. While this drug is prescribed to over 120 million people worldwide, it also has a pretty low adherence rate, due to its impact on the digestive system.

Recent studies show that metformin may not be as safe as previously thought.


What’s the concern?

In a cohort study that followed about 9300 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in Taiwan for up to 12 years, the risk for Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Alzheimer’s dementia was more than double during the test period for those who took metformin vs those who did not.

In addition, individuals who take metformin long term may be at higher risk of developing B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency can cause side effects such as neuropathy and memory loss.


Side effects of metformin

As with any prescription drug, there is a risk of side effects, some of the more common side effects include:

Abdominal discomfort General Discomfort Pain in lower back or side
Cough Hoarse voice Painful urination
Decreased appetite Muscle pain Shallow breathing
Diarrhea Muscle cramps Sleepiness


Less common side effects:

Anxiety Blurred vision Chest discomfort
Cold sweats Coma Confusion
Cool, pale skin Depression Difficulty breathing
Dizziness Fast, irregular or pounding heartrate or pulse Feeling warmer than normal
Headache Increased hunger Increased sweating
Nausea Nervousness Nightmares
Skin redness-arms, chest, face Seizures Shakiness
Short of breath Slurred speech Tightness in chest
Unusual tiredness Unusual weakness


Why Berberine may be a viable option for diabetes

Metformin and berberine share many common actions despite their differing chemical structure and both could be excellent options in treating T2DM, obesity, cardiac diseases, tumors, as well as inflammation.

The side effects of berberine are also minimal, usually gastrointestinal related. This one side effect is much more easily managed than the side effect list of metformin.

This small berberine study of 36 patients with T2DM were arbitrarily assigned with berberine or metformin. During the study it was found that the hypoglycemic effect of berberine is comparable to that of metformin.

In 2008 researchers compared berberine to metformin individually and together in the treatment of diabetes. One research project involved two experimental studies. Both compared 500 mg berberine three times a day to 500 mg of metformin three times a day, in a 13 week trial. In the first study of 36 individuals at the end of 3 months, average blood glucose dropped from 191 to 124 in the berberine group. Postprandial glucose also fell from 356 to 199. Hemoglobin A1C dropped from 9.5% to 7.5% and fasting triglycerides dropped from an average 99 to 78. These results were similar to the metformin group however the metformin group did not show reductions in triglycerides.

Berberine may well prove to be one of the safest and cost effective ways to help manage diabetes. Since these studies are new, further testing with larger populations need to be completed, but the effects look amazingly promising.



Before beginning any new supplement, you should discuss all your options with your health care provider.

Known to interact with enzymes of Drug Metabolism. Also may interact with microlide antibiotics such as azithromycin and clarithromycin at hERG channels on the heart, leading to serious cardiotoxicity.


Additional References

  1. “Product Information. Glucophage(metformin).” Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ.
  2. “Product Information. Fortamet(metFORMIN).” Physicians Total Care, Tulsa, OK.
  3. “Product Information. Riomet(metFORMIN).” Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, Jacksonville, FL.
  4. “Product Information. Glumetza(metFORMIN).” Biovail Pharmaceuticals Canada, Mississauga, IA.
Written By

My Health Maven offers information on a wholistic approach to healthy lifestyle choices.