Objective: To evaluate the efficacy as antihypercholesterolemic agent of berberine in patients with low cardiovascular risk.
Research design and methods: 144 Caucasian subjects were enrolled. After a 6-month run-in period following diet and practicing physical activity, patients were randomized to take placebo or berberine 500 mg twice a day, for 3 months, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled design. Berberine and placebo were then interrupted for 2 months (washout period), and all patients continued with only diet and physical activity. At the end of the washout period, patients restarted berberine or placebo twice a day for further 3 months. Anthropometric and metabolic parameters were assessed during the run-in period, at randomization, before and after the washout period.
Results: A decrease of body weight and BMI was observed after the run-in period. Berberine reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol after 3 months from randomization and compared with placebo. After the washout period, lipid profile worsened; afterward, when berberine was reintroduced, lipid profile improved again both compared with the washout period, and with placebo.
Conclusions: Berberine is effective and safe to mildly improve lipid profile in subjects with low risk for cardiovascular disease.