Berberine for prevention of dementia associated with diabetes and its comorbidities: A systematic review

J Integr Med. 2020 Mar;18(2):125-151. doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


Background: A growing number of epidemiological studies indicate that metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its associated features play a key role in the development of certain degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Produced by several different medicinal plants, berberine is a bioactive alkaloid with a wide range of pharmacological effects, including antidiabetic effects. However, it is not clear whether berberine could prevent the development of dementia in association with diabetes.

Objective: To give an overview of the therapeutic potential of berberine as a treatment for dementia associated with diabetes.

Search strategy: Database searches A and B were conducted using PubMed and ScienceDirect. In search A, studies on berberine's antidementia activities were identified using "berberine" and "dementia" as search terms. In search B, recent studies on berberine's effects on diabetes were surveyed using "berberine" and "diabetes" as search terms.

Inclusion criteria: Clinical and preclinical studies that investigated berberine's effects associated with MetS and cognitive dysfunction were included.

Data extraction and analysis: Data from studies were extracted by one author, and checked by a second; quality assessments were performed independently by two authors.

Results: In search A, 61 articles were identified, and 22 original research articles were selected. In search B, 458 articles were identified, of which 101 were deemed relevant and selected. Three duplicates were removed, and a total of 120 articles were reviewed for this study. The results demonstrate that berberine exerts beneficial effects directly in the brain: enhancing cholinergic neurotransmission, improving cerebral blood flow, protecting neurons from inflammation, limiting hyperphosphorylation of tau and facilitating β-amyloid peptide clearance. In addition, evidence is growing that berberine is effective against diabetes and associated disorders, such as atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, hepatic steatosis, diabetic nephropathy, gut dysbiosis, retinopathy and neuropathy, suggesting indirect benefits for the prevention of dementia.

Conclusion: Berberine could impede the development of dementia via multiple mechanisms: preventing brain damages and enhancing cognition directly in the brain, and indirectly through alleviating risk factors such as metabolic dysfunction, and cardiovascular, kidney and liver diseases. This study provided evidence to support the value of berberine in the prevention of dementia associated with MetS.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Berberine; Dementia; Diabetes; Vascular dementia.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism
  • Berberine / pharmacology*
  • Berberine / therapeutic use
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cholinergic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Cholinergic Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / prevention & control
  • Dementia* / etiology
  • Dementia* / prevention & control
  • Dementia, Vascular / etiology
  • Dementia, Vascular / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Complications* / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Cholinergic Agonists
  • Plant Extracts
  • tau Proteins
  • Berberine