Obesity, a chronic illness, is frequently comorbid with other health conditions such as high blood pressure and Diabetes, and individuals who suffer from one or more of these conditions can often reap massive health benefits from properly managed weight loss. Along with appropriate medication and healthy lifestyle changes, like improved nutrition and increased exercise, weight loss is a critical factor in reducing severe outcomes and improving the overall quality of life.
Some medications are specifically approved as weight loss drugs, while others, like Ozempic, may have an “off-label” reputation for helping with weight loss in addition to their primary purpose. If you’ve been seeking an effective weight loss medication, you may have come across Ozempic and wondered what it might offer.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the use of Ozempic for weight loss and provide information intended to help you have a more informed discussion with your primary healthcare provider.
What Is Ozempic?
Produced by Novo Nordisk, Ozempic (semaglutide) is an injectable prescription medication used to treat Type 2 Diabetes in adults. It improves blood sugar control while also decreasing the risk of major cardiovascular events. As a non-insulin diabetes medication, Ozempic works with the body’s natural ability to lower blood sugar levels by promoting the pancreatic release of insulin. It also prevents the liver from producing and releasing higher glucose levels and slows down food leaving the stomach.
Ozempic is typically administered once per week subcutaneously (under the skin of the stomach, abdomen, thigh, or upper arm). The standard protocol is to begin with a lower starting dose (0.25 mg) and build up to a higher dose (0.5, 1 mg, or 2 mg) to increase tolerance and reduce side effects. Read the full Ozempic dosage guide here.
How Does Ozempic Work for Weight Loss?
Ozempic is primarily approved to treat Type 2 Diabetes, but can also aid with healthy weight loss in many cases. In order to understand how, let’s take a look at some digestive chemistry.
People who live with obesity and/or Type 2 Diabetes often produce lower-than-normal levels of the incretin hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 plays an important role in blood sugar management and, along with other incretin hormones produced naturally by the small intestine, signals the body when food has been consumed and is ready to be metabolized. Ultimately, these signals result in feelings of satiety or fullness.
Ozempic essentially imitates the effects of natural GLP-1. Along with helping to regulate blood sugar levels and communicating feelings of satiety to your brain, endocrine, and digestive systems, it also slows down the speed of food traveling through your digestive tract, which allows you to feel fuller for longer.
Feeling full can help to reduce cravings and promote weight loss. But Ozempic doesn’t work in isolation. Healthy eating and regular exercise are also important parts of the equation.
How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight on Ozempic?
Like any drug, Ozempic won’t produce the same results for every person. Healthy weight loss is a slow process and the speed at which Ozempic may help you lose weight will be impacted by many factors. Your genetic history, health history, diet, lifestyle, activity level, and unique biology and chemistry of your own body will all come into play.
That being said, clinical trials suggest that weight loss is likely to occur within the first 20 weeks of taking Ozempic and may continue for up to 48 more weeks or more. In Ozempic’s STEP 1 clinical trial, patients taking semaglutide lost an average of 33.7 lbs. (15.3 kg) over 68 weeks at a 2.4 mg weekly dose. In the STEP 2 clinical trial, patients lost approximately 10% of their body weight after 68 weeks at the same dosage.
Is Ozempic Approved for Weight Loss?
No. Ozempic is FDA-approved only as a prescription medication for treating Type 2 Diabetes. While weight loss is often a secondary effect, Ozempic is not officially approved as a weight loss drug.
If you’re interested in Ozempic for weight loss but don’t have Type 2 Diabetes, consider talking to your doctor about Wegovy—an injectable semaglutide medication similar to Ozempic. Also produced by Novo Nordisk, Wegovy has recently been approved as a weight loss drug by the FDA.
Who Can Take Ozempic?
Ozempic is indicated for adults diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. It should not be taken by people with Type 1 Diabetes, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, or previous Pancreatitis.
As with any medication, it’s essential to speak with your doctor to determine whether or not Ozempic may be the right option for your particular circumstances.
Side effects may occur when starting Ozempic but should decrease as your body adjusts to increased dosages. Common side effects include: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain.
Discuss any concerns with your primary healthcare provider.
Risks and Warnings
Though rare, serious side effects are possible with Ozempic. Major warning signs to watch for include pancreatitis, vision problems (diabetic retinopathy), reduced renal function, and severe allergic reactions such as swelling of the tongue, lips, or face, fainting, or a racing pulse. In addition, it’s advised not to use Ozempic if you or anyone in your family has ever had Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome Type 2 (MEN 2).
Ozempic is an injectable medication that, in conjunction with diet changes and increased physical activity, is used to treat Type 2 Diabetes in adults. It can also promote healthy weight loss by slowing down digestion and increasing feelings of satiety.
Ozempic is not currently approved as a weight loss medication. But Wegovy, a similar injectable semaglutide medication, recently has been.
The information in this article is meant to provide background information so that you and your doctor can further discuss if Ozempic might be an appropriate treatment for you. Always discuss medical decisions with your primary healthcare provider.
About the Author
Ida Edlweiss Gumpal is a licensed Pharmacist and medical writer. She took her internships at Mercury Drug Corporation, Inc., a Hospital internship at De Vera Medical Center, Inc., and a Manufacturing internship at Philmed Laboratories, Inc. She has plans on attending medical school with the goal of specializing in Neurosurgery or Cardiothoracic surgery.