Introduction: Type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypercholesterolemia have proven to give an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Recent studies have suggested that the natural alkaloid berberine could have pharmacological activities potentially useful in diabetes and hypercholesterolemia management.
Areas covered: The aim of this review is to evaluate the metabolic properties of the natural alkaloid berberine, and its potential application to the treatment of diabetes and CVD prevention.
Expert opinion: Berberine proved to be effective in improving glycemic control and lipid profile. The modern investigation on berberine pharmacological activity is actually developing and numerous scientific evidences are actually in progress and reported in international congresses. The near future perspective is the isolation or neo-synthesis of berberine analogs with a higher bioavailability. The anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-diabetic effects of berberine have to be related to markers of improvement in organ damage in humans; longer trials are needed to better evaluate the safety profile of the molecule, when administered alone or in association with other anti-hyperlipidemic or anti-diabetic drugs, especially in the European population.