Many people struggle with weight problems. In the United States, overweight and obesity affect more than 70 percent of adults. Different treatment options are available to address overweight and obesity in patients with a high body mass index (BMI). Conservative methods to reduce weight include lifestyle changes such as a better diet of healthy food and supplements along with a regular exercise routine. Alternatively, some opt for drastic surgical interventions like bariatric surgery.
The search for weight loss drugs continues until today but the use of current anti-obesity treatments is often limited due to safety concerns. However, recently researchers have discovered a that a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists has a high potential to decrease weight. These drugs are typically used to control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. Today, they are becoming popular with many people sharing their positive weight loss experience on social media platforms like TikTok.
What Are GLP-1 Receptor Agonists?
These drugs mimic the action of GLP-1, a naturally produced hormone in the human body. The hormone is typically released after meals when blood sugar begins to rise. The hormone stimulates the release of insulin. Upon secretion, insulin leads to a drop in blood sugar.
How Do GLP-1 Receptor Agonists Reduce Weight?
Considered one of the most popular diabetes medications, GLP-1 receptor agonists slow down gastric emptying which means the food stays longer in the stomach before moving to the small intestine. Consequently, the accompanying sensation of satiety lasts longer. This effect will help patients feel full after eating smaller food portions. In doing so, the drug limits hunger and subsequent food intake. As a result, patients will eat less and the drop in calories will cause weight loss.
GLP-1 receptor agonists also communicate with the brain to signal the presence of food. When the brain receives this information, it decreases appetite which also inhibits food cravings. This helps patients gain better control of their food intake through developing healthy eating habits as part of their chronic weight management approach.
GLP-1 receptor agonists are prescription medications and they include:
Exenatide, liraglutide, lixisenatide – taken on a daily basis
Dulagluatide and semaglutide – taken on a weekly basis
Semaglutide, most famous for its antidiabetic effects, is produced under different brand names that vary in form and dosage. For example, Rybelsus is the brand name for the tablet form. Semaglutide is also sold as Ozempic and Wegovy injection pens. Weekly semaglutide injections are administered to manage blood sugar. Ozempic is available in low doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 1.0 mg whereas Wegovy injections reach up to 2.4 mg.
Manufactured by Novo Nordisk, Ozempic is currently FDA-approved as a weekly prescription to control blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetic patients use ozempic along with reduced calorie diets and exercise to manage their condition and decrease the risk of heart disease. It lowers the level of lipids including cholesterol in the blood and decreases blood pressure as well. Ozempic can also cause weight loss.
How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight On Ozempic?
Patients who start taking Ozempic can start noticing significant weight loss after several weeks. According to clinical trials, adults lost 9 to 12 pounds on average within 56 weeks after starting Ozempic treatment. Another trial testing the effectiveness of Ozempic to reduce weight in people with obesity showed that participants experienced a 15 percent weight loss compared to placebo group.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Wegovy to be used in combination with lifestyle changes to reduce weight in patients with obesity (BMI ≥30) or overweight (BMI ≥27). It is listed among the six anti-obesity drugs approved for public use. Clinical trials demonstrate that when used with increased physical activity and adjusted caloric intake, Wegovy can lead to weight loss amounting to 15 percent of the starting body weight.
This significant reduction is five times higher than that seen in patients who only alter their diet and exercise routines. The drug is particularly useful in patient groups with other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and fatty liver. It also lowers the risk of cardiovascular conditions including having a heart attack and stroke.
Side Effects of Weight Loss Drugs
Many people decide to take diabetes drugs like Ozempic to lose weight but it’s important to check its safety. Ozempic and Wegovy are both approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but are still associated with some side effects that may subside as the body adjusts to the drug dosage over time. For example, Wegovy can result in nausea and vomiting but both usually fade within a few weeks.
Is Ozempic Safe For Adults?
The most common side effects of Ozempic are gastrointestinal; they include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Patients can reduce the feeling of nausea by avoiding fatty foods and staying hydrated. It is preferable to sit in a upright position after meals. Diarrhea is common especially with higher doses.
Do not use Ozempic without consulting your doctor if you:
Have problems that affect your pancreas (e.g. pancreatitis) or kidneys
Are currently pregnant or breastfeeding
Have a family history of diabetic retinopathy
Ozempic and Wegovy are also linked to possible thyroid tumors. Patients with a family history of specific thyroid disorders like medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndrome type 2 are not eligible to take these drugs.
Similarly, patients with semaglutide sensitivity may experience allergic reactions so they cannot receive these drugs. Further, patients who use other drugs like insulin, sulfonylureas, or other GLP-1 agonists may not be eligible to receive GLP-1 receptor agonist injections due to the elevated risk of developing low blood sugar levels.
Consult Your Doctor First
Book an appointment at My Concierge MD in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles to get a full consultation on the right weight management treatment for you. Our healthcare professionals will evaluate your case to check if prescribing a GLP-1 receptor agonist is the right decision to optimize your weight loss.
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Author: David Nazarian, M.D.
Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Specialist in Concierge Medicine & Executive Health. Dr. Nazarian practices Integrative Medicine with focus on preventative medicine, anti-aging, hormone replacement therapy and IV Vitamin optimizations. Dr. David Nazarian, received his bachelor of sciences from the University of Los Angeles, California in Psychology and Biology. He obtained his Medical Doctorate degree from Sackler School of Medicine. He completed his medical residency at Huntington Memorial Hospital, a University of Southern California affiliate hospital. Once completed, he established a practice in the heart of Beverly Hills. Dr. Nazarian is a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine. He has received numerous awards and recognition as a top doctor in his field.