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Ozempic for Weight Loss: Side Effects, Benefits, and Results (2023)

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Time to read 9 min

Ozempic for Weight Loss: Side Effects, Benefits, and Results (2023)

Fit woman out for a jog. Source: DepositPhotos
Fit woman out for a jog. Source: DepositPhotos

Diabetes management can be challenging. Besides the difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels, most people also experience excess weight, while others may suffer from losing weight.

 

If you're suffering from diabetes-associated weight gain and looking for weight loss drugs, you might have heard of Ozempic.

 

This drug is primarily made to help control blood sugar levels, but some noticed it also causes weight loss. 

 

As such, they started using it to lose weight even if they were not diabetic. But is that safe?

 

So we'll discuss everything you need to know about Ozempic weight loss, including its side effects, benefits, and results.

Ozempic Weight Loss Usage: An Inside Look

Ozempic® (semaglutide) injector
Ozempic® (semaglutide) injector

Ozempic is originally an FDA-approved drug that doctors prescribe for adult patients with type 2 diabetes. Not only does it help these patients control their blood sugar more, but it also reduces the risks of strokes in patients with heart disease.

 

It can also reduce hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood glucose over time. Doctors naturally don't prescribe Ozempic as a weight loss medication. It's primarily made for those with type 2 diabetes.

Is Ozempic a Type of Insulin?

No, it's not. 

 

Ozempic indeed helps patients with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood sugar, but not the way insulin does.

 

Ozempic's primary active compound is semaglutide, a GLP-1 (glucagon-like-peptide-1) receptor agonist.

 

Once the body's GLP-1 receptors are activated, the effects of GLP-1, a naturally occurring hormone, are enhanced. And when these effects are enhanced, insulin production in your body increases.

 

So, by boosting the GLP-1 receptors using semaglutide, you boost the effect of the GLP-1 hormone and boost the production of insulin.

 

On the other hand, insulin injections and needle-free devices directly increase insulin levels in the blood, which allows the body to take in the circulating glucose, eventually controlling the blood sugar.

How Does Ozempic Help People Lose Weight?

Man on scale with measuring tape
Man on scale with measuring tape

We've learned that Ozempic improves control over blood sugar, but how is that related to weight loss?

 

The secret lies in two effects; one in your stomach and one in your brain.

 

Remember when we talked about increased GLP-1 levels? This influences something in your body called "negative feedback."

 

Negative feedback is a biological response that tries to normalize all your physical functions. Typically, when a healthy person eats something, the GLP-1 hormone will increase, increasing insulin production, which utilizes that sugar you just ingested.

 

That increase in the GLP-1 hormone levels sends negative feedback to a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, the mastermind of hormone production.

 

Once the hypothalamus detects increased GLP-1 levels in your blood, your "hunger" feeling will be reduced.

 

In other words, once the semaglutide amplifies the effect of GLP-1 in your body, your brain will receive that negative feedback and believe that you've already eaten, so your hunger will subside.

 

Semaglutide also slows down how your stomach digests food, which helps you feel full longer.

Is It Safe to Take Ozempic as a Weight Loss Drug?

Fatima Cody Stanford, a physician-scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that around 80% of type 2 diabetic patients also suffer from a degree of obesity

 

As such, they acquire a "dual benefit" from using Ozempic to treat their diabetes.

 

She also stated that Ozempic is a safe medication with various benefits. Besides the dual effect, Ozempic can also reduce major coronary events like strokes and heart attacks.

What Are the Side Effects of Ozempic?

Despite being labeled as a safe medication, Ozempic isn't without its issues. Like most drugs, it has common but less serious side effects and less common but more potent side effects.

 

The most common side effects are nausea and vomiting. Because of its effect on the stomach, Ozempic may elicit a nauseous feeling in people's stomachs, sometimes resulting in vomiting.

 

Most people taking Ozempic will experience this sooner or later during treatment. The good news is that the nausea subsides with time as the body gets used to it.

 

Two antagonizing side effects often leave people puzzled; diarrhea and constipation. One would think these two can't come together, but it's common for Ozempic users to have diarrhea today and constipation the day after.

 

Fortunately, all the side effects are tolerable and shouldn't be a cause for concern. Here are the ones that may require halting the medication:

 

  • Pancreatitis (which is the inflammation of the pancreas)

  • Vision changes, like blurriness or loss of peripheral vision.

  • Kidney problems

  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia

  • Thyroid tumors, inflammation, or cancer (rare)

  • Gallbladder complications

  • Allergic reactions

If you experience any of those side effects, you should contact your doctor immediately so they can change the medication for you.

Is Ozempic for Everyone?

Finding a drug that works for everyone is a rarity, and Ozempic follows that rule. Not only doesn't it work for some people, but it could also raise some safety concerns.

 

Because of the side effects, the following patients should steer away from Ozempic:

 

  • Patients with any pancreatic issues

  • Patients with diabetic retinopathy, as they're already suffering from vision issues that don't need any more complications to them

  • Patients with kidney stones, failures, or impaired function

  • Any patients with a family history of thyroid problems like MTC (medullary thyroid cancer)

  • Any patient suffering from an endocrine problem called MEN 2 (Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia 2)

Are There Any Precautions While Taking Ozempic?

Yes, there are quite a few as well. Since you're altering the chemistry of your hormonal balance, Ozempic isn't a drug to be taken lightly. 

 

Pharmacies will only sell it to you with a prescription since it's not an OTC drug. Here's why you should be wary:

1. It's a Lifelong Medication

First, if you decide to use Ozempic for weight loss, you're bound to it for life. People who stop using it often start regaining weight fast.

 

Additionally, Ozempic isn't a cheap medication nor among the weight loss medications, so it's quite challenging to have it prescribed for you.

2. It Won't Work Without Your Efforts

Ozempic's general idea is to reduce your appetite and slow digestion. However, a healthy lifestyle is necessary for weight loss to occur.

 

In other words, Ozempic alone isn't enough to help you lose weight. You'll have to complete the formula with exercises and healthy food choices.

3. It Shouldn't Be Used With Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

Many drugs are dangerous for pregnant or lactating women because they can go through the placenta or get incorporated into the milk.

 

Unfortunately, Ozempic is one of those medications. If a woman uses it but gets pregnant, she must stop immediately.

4. It Shouldn't Be Used With Type 1 Diabetes

Patients who have type 1 diabetes shouldn't take Ozempic. 

 

Since they already rely on insulin to survive, taking Ozempic may further increase the amount of insulin secreted in the bloodstream, which may dangerously lower blood sugar and cause hypoglycemia.

5. It Shouldn't Be Used if You're Under 18 Years Old

Ozempic isn't an addictive drug, but it's not been tested on children and teens up to 18 years old.

 

While some 12-year-old children were prescribed Ozempic, the patients were overly obese, and the medication can be unpredictable at that age.

6. You Shouldn't Change the Dose Without Your Doctor's Permission

If you've been trying a low dose, say 0.5 milligrams, but felt it was not working, you should consider increasing the dose on your own. You already have the prescription, so it should be okay.

 

You will be right in most cases, as the body would still respond favourably to dose adjustments. 

 

However, a sudden dose change could amplify one of the side effects or lead to the appearance of new ones. So it's not recommended.

Should You Take Ozempic to Lose Weight?

The answer to that question largely depends on your lifestyle and your doctor. Most doctors don't prescribe Ozempic for weight loss as it's primarily among diabetes medications.

 

So your chances of getting Ozempic as a prescription medication if you're not diabetic are slim.

 

Plus, weight loss isn't the primary effect of Ozempic, which is why it doesn't directly influence your body weight. It merely reduces your appetite and makes you feel full longer. You'll also need to improve your lifestyle to get the most out of the medication.

 

You're also much more likely to gain the lost weight again if you stop the medication. If you're not diabetic, Ozempic isn't recommended for your case.

 

On the other hand, if you have type 2 diabetes and are suffering from the weight gain that comes with the disease, Ozempic can be a good medicine to hit two birds with one stone.

A Semaglutide Study: A Deeper Look Into the Results

In 2021, a study was performed on 1,961 adults to test the efficacy of semaglutide injections on their body weight. All the adults had a body-mass index of 30+, but they didn't have diabetes nor were taking any of its medications.

 

They were split into two groups; one took weekly subcutaneous semaglutide

injections, while the other took a placebo.

 

The study lasted 68 weeks, and both groups had a healthy lifestyle. However, the group that took semaglutide lost 14.9% of their body weight. The group with the placebo lost only 2.4%.

 

This shows how, with a proper lifestyle, semaglutide can help people lose weight.

There's a small note, though. The amount of semaglutide used in this study was 2.4 milligrams, which is only present in a new weight loss drug named Wegovey

 

Ozemic also contains semaglutide, but only in doses of 0.5, 1, or 2 milligrams.

Ozempic vs. Wegovy: What's the Difference?

Ozempic vs Wegovy. Source: Healthnews.com
Ozempic vs Wegovy. Source: Healthnews.com

Alyssa Dominguez, MD, an endocrinologist, says that Ozempic gets most of the focus when Wegovy is actually the medication marketed for weight loss.

 

Both drugs have the same primary ingredient: semaglutide. However, Wegovy has a maximum dose of 2.4 milligrams, where Ozempic tops at 2 milligrams.

 

Also, Ozempic isn't advertised as one of the weight-loss drugs. It's not even approved by the FDA as a weight loss drug.

 

But Wegovy, despite being composed mainly of semaglutide as well, is an FDA-approved prescription medication for weight loss (as long as you're older than 18 years).

 

Learn more on Ozempic vs Wegovy

The Bottom Line

Diabetes treatment can be bothersome, especially if it's associated with extra weight, resulting in weight-related health conditions like high blood pressure and coronary issues.

 

If you're suffering from type 2 diabetes and weight gain, Ozempic can be a great medication to help you control your blood sugar levels and weight. That's assuming your doctor prescribes it as it's not an OTC drug.

 

On the other hand, if you don't have type 2 diabetes or have any conditions that contra-indicate taking Ozempic, you should refrain from taking it.

 

If you do take it, supplement with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle to get the intended results, as Ozempic only affects your appetite and doesn't directly impact weight loss.

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