This diabetes-brain damage danger leads to dementia

You know diabetes can take a toll on your eyes, kidneys and feet. But what does diabetes do to your brain?

That question may be on your mind if you’re diabetic… especially if you’ve read about the connection between diabetes and dementia.

The truth is, diabetes can have a devastating effect on your brain. It can cause a complication called diabetic encephalopathy, which is essentially brain damage caused by the blood sugar rollercoaster diabetics deal with.

Diabetic encephalopathy can show itself in a lot of different ways. It can change your personality, alter your mental state, interfere with your memory, impair your coordination, cause seizures and cause tremors. It can even lead to dementia.

It’s serious stuff to be sure. But don’t worry. There’s a simple way to protect your brain, and even reduce some of your other diabetes symptoms while you’re at it…

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Let berberine go to bat for your brain

Now, the best way to save your brain from the devastating effect of diabetes is to get your blood sugar under control. Eating a healthy diet and exercising daily are great ways to move toward healthier blood sugar levels. You can even try this diet which reversed type 2 diabetes in eight weeks.

But getting diabetes under control can be a process of trial and error. Some cases are more stubborn than others, and it may take a while to figure out what works for you. In the meantime, you could be doing damage to your brain… unless you know about a certain supplement.

A recent study from researchers at the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine found that the plant compound berberine improved diabetic encephalopathy and slowed brain degeneration in diabetic mice. These mice had a better memory, an easier time learning and a healthier fasting blood sugar — all from a bit of berberine.

And this isn’t the first time berberine’s helped with diabetes and its complications, like encephalopathy.

In fact, a previous study showed that berberine has the same effect on cells as insulin, which means it allows them to take in sugar more effectively.

Another study showed that berberine controlled blood sugar just as well as the popular diabetes drug metformin. And at least two previous studies show that berberine helps curb the negative effects diabetes has the brain.

So is berberine the best supplement to keep diabetes-related brain damage at bay? It just may be…

Understanding this diabetes-fighting compound

The plant compound berberine is found in a few common plants, including Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Chinese Goldthread (Coptis chinensis). It’s been used for a long time in Chinese and Indian medicine for a variety of purposes, including as an anti-inflammatory, an anti-bacterial and a remedy for gastrointestinal problems. In recent years, it’s even proven promising in cancer treatment and prevention.

When taking berberine for diabetes, studies show 500 mg three times per day is a safe and effective amount. In one study, people saw dramatic improvements in their blood sugar after taking this dosage for just two to four weeks. Berberine doesn’t have many side effects, but it can cause stomach upset and diarrhea for certain people. If that happens to you, make sure to take your berberine with food and switch to a smaller dose.


  1. How berberine works to slow diabetes-related cognitive decline — MedicalXpress. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  2. Hong-Ying Li, et al. “Berberine Improves Diabetic Encephalopathy through SIRT1/ER Stress Pathway in db/db Mice.” — Rejuvenation Research, 2017.
  3. A. Sima. “Encephalopathies: the emerging diabetic complications.” — Acta Diabetologica. 2010 Dec;47(4):279-93.
  4. Diabetic Encephalopathy — Upwell. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  5. Schor. “Clinical Applications for Berberine.” — Natural Medicine Journal. Dec. 2012; 4(12).
  6. Yin, et al. “Efficacy of Berberine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” — Metabolism. 2008 May; 57(5): 712–717.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and