I am getting regular calls asking about Ozempic and similar products for weight loss. Before you jump on this band-wagon let’s take a look at these medications and see if they are right for you. READ ON to learn why these work, side-effects to be aware of and who qualifies for these medications…..
The latest buzz is about a class of medications called semaglutides including medications like Wegovy, Ozempic, Rybelsus and Mounjaro. These are GLP-1 agonists. GLP-1 is an incretin hormone that works on your appetite and digestion. Incretins are released by your digestive tract after you have eaten a meal. They slow down how quickly food leaves your stomach and trigger insulin release as well as blocking sugar production. The end result is you feel full longer. The semaglutide medications mimic incretin causing the same effect.
These drugs were created initially to help Type 2 diabetics control their blood sugars and have remarkable success but while helping with the blood sugars the studies noticed significant weight loss as an added bonus. Trials are demonstrating a 12% loss of weight by 28 weeks when using these medications. So, if you are 250 pounds then that would equate to about a 30 pound weight loss during the 28 weeks while taking the medication.
These medications are not without their side-effects though.
- *Diarrhea- 30% of people taking this for weight loss experience this
- *Stomach pain
- *Gallbladder disease
- *Kidney damage – especially if you already have kidney damage and are on diuretics (water pills)
- *Thyroid cancer
- *Accelerated eye problems in type 2 diabetics
If you follow a healthy diet while taking these medications the symptoms of nausea and diarrhea may diminish. Eating smaller meals and avoiding high-fat foods as well as remaining upright after eating all help.
Clay colored stools, severe abdominal pain indicate a potentially serious side-effect of pancreatitis or gallbladder disease so seek medical attention immediately if these occur.
Who should NOT take it…
- 1. Anyone needing to lose 10 pounds or less! If you are taking this for blood sugars then this would be the exception. This isn’t the drugs rule of thumb but my rule of thumb.
- 2. If you have had medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2 or have a family history of thyroid cancer then you should NOT take any of these medications. Thyroid cancer was shown to occur in rodents when exposed to these products and human trials are ongoing and have yet to confirm this risk. Regardless of the studies, it is not advised.
- 3. Type 1 Diabetics
- 4. *If you have not tried diet and exercise!
I would highly recommend working on your diet and adding exercise first before reaching for these medications. Studies show that when you stop these medications the people gain the weight back so without long-lasting lifestyle changes all the positive effects you get will disappear. I encourage my patients to really kick in their lifestyle changes while on the medication and get the most out it with the plan of discontinuing the medication in a year.
While Ozempic, Rybelsus and Mounjaro are all approved for Type 2 diabetes, Wegovy is approved for weight loss in people who have a body mass index equal or greater than 30 alone or a BMI of 27 combined with one weight related disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes. Just because these medications are approved does not mean your insurance will cover them, though. Many insurance plans won’t cover weight loss medications and the other ones are only approved if you have Type 2 Diabetes and often have to fail other therapies first. We have found a compounder who is compounding this medication in sublingual tabs for those of you who discover your insurance won’t pay.
My take on this drug? Yes, it can jump start your weight loss program but unless you are a type 2 diabetic requiring long term medication then work on diet/exercise and if you do use this medication plan on using this only until you reach your weight loss goal.
To your health,