Diabetes Medication for Weight Loss? Understanding the Ozempic Trend and Alternatives

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If you live in the US and watch TV or abstain from adblock on Youtube, there’s a chance you’ve seen an ad for the Type-2 diabetes medication, Ozempic. Bonus points if you’ve seen that particularly grating ad that follows the tune of 1975’s Magic by Pilot.

Ozempic Weight Loss

Well if you are familiar with the drug, or perhaps even take it yourself, you may be surprised to hear that it’s being used to help with weight loss by non-diabetics, with particular rumors swirling around celebrities. How and why does that work? I’ll give you the rundown on why people have decided to use this for weight loss, and why you should look for alternatives.

 

Ozempic: How It Works

Does Ozempic work for weight loss

Ozempic, or as it’s known by its generic name, semaglutide, is a drug that mimics GLP-1, a hormone that helps the pancreas in releasing insulin. This is according to Dr. Judy Korner, an endocrinologist and a founder and director at Metabolic and Weight Control Center at Columbia University.

“GLP-1 goes to the pancreas, and helps the pancreas make insulin – but only when the body needs insulin,” Korner said. “So when glucose levels rise, the body needs more insulin, and GLP-1 or Ozempic helps the pancreas release insulin.”

Neat. What about weight loss, though? Well, as it turns out, semaglutide is also the generic name for Wegovy, which has been approved for weight loss management. According to associate professor in the Department of Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, Debra Horne, the drug acts as an appetite suppressant. “Semaglutide sends signals to the appetite center in your brain to reduce hunger and increase fullness. This helps you feel full with smaller meals and decreases the need for snacks.”

“Many of us eat to manage emotions like stress or boredom. Wegovy decreases what we call ‘food noise’ so that we aren’t thinking about food as much or using food to try and solve other problems. Many individuals also report decreased interest in alcohol, which reduces calories from both the alcohol and the food that we usually eat with it.”

 

The Downsides & The Side Effects of Using Ozmpic For Weight Loss

Side effects of Ozempic for weight loss

The side effects are the usual, but can be quite significant from person to person. You’re likely to feel the following:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

One thing they don’t tell you, however, is that Ozempic is a long-term drug. AKA, if you decide you’ve gotten to your weight goal and don’t need Ozempic anymore, you’ll just gain all that weight back as soon as you stop. At least, this is the case according to Rekha Kumar, M.D., who is the head of Medical Affairs at Found, an evidence-based weight care program.

“Studies show that stopping Ozempic completely will likely lead to regaining most of the weight lost within several months,” Kumar said.

It’s a sentiment also echoed by Christopher McGowan, M.D., who is a gastroenterologist specializing in obesity medicine, as well as endobariatrics, and is the founder of True You Weight Loss in North Carolina. GLP-1 medications [like Ozempic] are designed to be taken long-term,” said Dr. McGowan. “They are chronic medications for the treatment of chronic conditions.”

It also should be mentioned that it is extremely difficult to get an insurance company to cover Ozempic, including Medicare. That is because most insurance companies do not cover any weight loss drugs. Now, you may be thinking that Ozempic shouldn’t count, since it’s Wegovy that’s the weight loss drug. Well, you have to remember that they’re the same drug, so it doesn’t matter if Ozempic is marketed specifically for diabetes Type-2. Because of this, getting Ozempic, even if you genuinely need it for diabetes, is very expensive to most. That’s also why you mainly hear about celebrities using them, as they can easily afford it off of insurance.

The last downside is that it is an injectable drug. To some, that doesn’t matter, but not everyone wants to stick a needle into themselves in order to lose weight.

 

Should You Use Ozempic to Lose Weight?

Should You Use Ozempic to Lose Weight

Dr. McGowan lets people know that Ozempic is a relatively safe drug. When he discusses its use in weight loss, he mainly refers to obesity rather than losing weight in general. “For the primary treatment of obesity, Wegovy is likewise an excellent option for any patient who has struggled to lose weight through diet and exercise alone, has a BMI of 30 and above (or 27 and above with an obesity-related comorbidity) and is willing to use a once-weekly injection long-term.”

The key word there is “long-term”. Like I said beforehand, Ozempic and Wegovy cannot be used as a short-term solution, and Dr. McGowan emphasizes that.

“While this has received significant attention in the media, Ozempic and related GLP-1 medications are not designed to be used in this way, can lead to potential adverse events and ultimately the weight that is lost will be regained,” he stated. “Further, this off-label use of Ozempic is greatly impacting availability of the medication for those who need it most—individuals with type 2 diabetes.”

 

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