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What Is Ozempic? A Weight Loss Doctor Reveals the Facts

Ozempic may be the shot heard around the world, but misinformation is damaging the truth. That stops here.

What Is Ozempic? A Weight Loss Doctor Reveals the Facts

Curious about the real deal behind Ozempic for weight loss?

Although approved as a diabetes medication, Ozempic for weight loss may have been the talk of 2023 and continues to buzz in 2024—with the momentum only building. Amid the chatter, the truth is often buried in social media hype and sensational tabloid stories, leaving many chasing false hope and feeling confused. That stops here.

As a weight loss physician with over 20 years of experience, I’m here to cut through the noise and give you the unvarnished reality—no fluff, no fiction, just the facts. Let’s unravel the truth together!

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a once-weekly injectable semaglutide, a type of GLP-1 medication. Formerly known as glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs), GLP-1 medications primarily treat type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, obesity.

While we’ll dive deeper into the science in the next section, GLP-1 is a hormone that helps improve glycemic control. It also slows down gastric emptying and regulates appetite, making it a viable option for weight loss.

Ozempic was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 to lower blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes alongside diet and exercise. It’s also approved to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events—such as heart attack, stroke, and death—in adults with type 2 diabetes with known heart disease.

The Rise of Ozempic

Despite being around for over half a decade, it’s only been recently booming due to its hyped-up role in weight loss. As you can see from the graph, the Ozempic search trend has dramatically skyrocketed!

Related high-volume queries include “how does ozempic work?” “ozempic for weight loss,” and “ozempic side effects.” Let’s dive into each of them with the facts.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Like other GLP-1 medications, Ozempic mimics the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 to:

1. Stimulate insulin section
2. Lower glucagon section
3. Delay gastric emptying

Before discussing each mechanism, let’s quickly review how insulin and glucagon work. Insulin and glucagon are hormones produced in the pancreas that work together to balance blood glucose (sugar) levels.

The carbohydrates you eat are broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels and triggering insulin release. Insulin acts like a key, facilitating the entry of glucose into the body’s cells for immediate or future use, reducing blood sugar levels.

Conversely, glucagon is secreted to increase blood sugars when levels drop too low. It accomplishes this by converting glycogen, the body’s stored form of glucose, into usable glucose.

However, individuals with insulin resistance and diabetes struggle to use insulin and glucagon effectively, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. This is where Ozempic comes into play.

1. Stimulates Insulin Secretion

People with insulin resistance and diabetes can’t use insulin effectively, and their blood sugars start to rise. Ozempic, however, helps stimulate insulin secretion so glucose can exit the bloodstream, enter the cells, and be used for energy.

2. Lowers Glucagon Secretion

Glucagon is often secreted in excess (hyperglucagonemia) in individuals with insulin resistance or diabetes, which can increase blood sugar levels. Ozempic helps to lower the amount of glucagon secreted to regulate blood sugars.

3. Delays Gastric Emptying

GLP-1 medications slow the rate at which the stomach empties, suppressing appetite and leading to subsequent weight loss. Slowing down stomach emptying also leads to a gentler, lesser increase in blood sugar levels after eating.

There’s also a new proposed mechanism in town, reshaping our thinking and understanding of how GLP-1s work.

Ozempic's Evolving Mechanism On the Brain

GLP-1s, like Ozempic, are being widely explored for their impact on the brain. Researchers suggest these medications penetrate specific brain regions, suppressing motivational dopamine systems and reducing “food noise.”

Food noise can turn up our thoughts about when, what, and how much to eat. These intrusive thoughts can weaken self-control, turn mental cravings into actions, and lead us to consume calorie-rich foods with little nutritional value but high short-term pleasure. The cycle repeats, often leading to internal disappointment and weight gain as an external outcome.

GLP-1 users notice food noise turns down, reducing cravings and gaining trust in their appetites to guide more nutritious choices. Less food noise also opens up brain space, allowing some users to be more productive and present throughout their day.

But it's not just food that GLP-1 users are thinking less about. Some report less interest in alcohol, online shopping, and other addictive behaviors, highlighting the potential for these medications to be more than used for weight loss.

Ozempic for Weight Loss and Other Benefits

Ozempic is approved to manage type 2 diabetes, yet may help people lose weight and be prescribed “off-label” for this purpose. Wegovy, which contains the same medication, semaglutide, as Ozempic but in a higher dosage, is approved for weight loss. Research supports using these GLP-1 medications for weight loss and other health benefits.

A landmark 2021 study1 demonstrates participants with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, or those with a BMI over 27 accompanied by at least one weight-related condition, lost nearly 15 percent of their body weight after 68 weeks. This study used a weekly dose of 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide combined with lifestyle interventions, such as a reduced-calorie diet, increased physical activity, and counseling.

Further supporting these findings, a 2022 study2 reports that individuals taking semaglutide for three months experienced an average weight loss of 6.7 kilograms (about 15 pounds), increasing to 12.3 kilograms (about 27 pounds) after six months.

Another study3 in 2022 shows semaglutide leads to substantial and sustained weight loss over 104 weeks in adults who are overweight (with at least one weight-related comorbidity) or obese compared to a placebo.

In the studies, participants reaped benefits beyond weight loss, including significant improvements in glucose control and blood lipids. However, they also encountered some side effects, particularly gastrointestinal adverse effects, even causing some participants to withdraw from the study and discontinue the medication entirely.

Ozempic Side Effects & Risks

While Ozempic offers exciting prospects for glycemic control and weight management, it’s essential to consider its common and more severe side effects and risks.

Common Side Effects:

• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Stomach (abdominal) pain
• Constipation

Serious Side Effects and Risks:

• Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis)
• Vision changes
• Severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
• Kidney issues and failure, particularly in people who already have kidney problems
• Gallbladder problems
• Stomach paralysis (gastroparesis)
• Thyroid tumors and cancers
• Severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction that warrants immediate medical help

It’s also essential to understand that Ozempic for weight loss is primarily studied in overweight (BMI greater than 27) and obese (BMI greater than 30) individuals. This is extremely important to note since rapid weight loss, especially in users hoping to shed a few pounds, can cause muscle loss. Losing precious muscle mass can damage metabolism, in turn compromising good health and challenging weight management.

Ultimately, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor, especially if you have a known condition that corresponds with any of the side effects, as the medication could aggravate your symptoms.

Ozempic Tips for Success

Ozempic is a weight loss tool that works best alongside a comprehensive health plan, including a balanced diet and regular exercise. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to maximize benefits and minimize risks, and track your progress to ensure that Ozempic and healthy habits effectively support your goals.

View Ozempic as a Tool

Think of Ozempic as a tool because that’s exactly what it is—not a magic bullet. Using it effectively means understanding its purpose and how it fits into your overall health and wellness plan and not in its place.

Follow Instructions and Medical Advice

Like any medication, following your healthcare provider's instructions is crucial. Adhering to medical advice ensures you gain the most benefit from Ozempic while minimizing potential risks.

Make Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

If you stop taking Ozempic, you may regain the lost weight, which can negate its potential benefits. Therefore, focus on sustainable lifestyle changes for long-term success.

For instance, adopting an Ozempic diet plan can easily be overlooked amid the ease of a once-weekly injection. However, what you eat daily—along with moving your body, managing stress, and getting enough quality sleep—matters most.

This isn’t just about eating smaller portions of low-nutrient-dense foods, either. I’ve observed patients who continue to consume low-quality diets, just in smaller portions, and still lose weight. Yet, they miss out on the full benefits of consistently eating a balanced diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fat.

The importance of a diet rich in lean protein also cannot be stressed enough. A low-protein diet can lead to muscle loss as you lose weight, but consuming adequate lean protein helps mitigate this risk and preserves muscle mass. Since muscle is a key driver of your metabolic rate, maintaining it enables you to keep your metabolism (and body) strong.

Track Your Progress

Track your weight, dietary habits, and other health metrics regularly to understand if Ozempic—alongside healthy lifestyle changes—works effectively. This will help you make necessary adjustments and stay motivated on your journey.

What Is Ozempic: Final Thoughts

Ozempic is a weekly injectable semaglutide, a type of GLP-1. While FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes management, Ozempic offers benefits that extend to weight loss and improved metabolic health.

As with any medication, though, Ozempic comes with its own set of side effects and risks, particularly gastrointestinal issues and more severe conditions such as pancreatitis and thyroid tumors. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider to thoroughly understand these risks and determine if Ozempic suits your health needs.

Remember, sustainable weight loss and improving overall health occur not just by relying on medication, but by using it alongside a comprehensive approach—like consuming adequate lean protein, prioritizing nutrient-dense foods, and including movement in your day.

Commit to a healthy lifestyle, and you’ll maximize the benefits of Ozempic and achieve long-term success in your wellness journey.


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