Dr. Mersad Alimoradi 14 Mar 2023

Ozempic (semaglutide) is an antidiabetic medication that regulates blood glucose levels. When paired with a low-calorie diet and increased physical exercise, it can also assist overweight and obese people who do not have diabetes to lose considerable weight and keep it off.

Many weight-loss drugs were originally developed to treat a medical condition, such as diabetes or opioid dependence. Doctors later discovered that these medications also have weight reduction abilities. Ozempic is one of those drugs that can help reduce weight.

Keep reading to learn more about Ozempic, how it works, who can use it, and how it can help with weight loss.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic (active substance: semaglutide) is a diabetes medication manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

The FDA approved the use of Ozempic (semaglutide) in 2017 to regulate blood sugar levels in persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus along with diet and exercise (DM).

Ozempic is available as a liquid in a prefilled pen. It is injected once weekly under the skin of the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm.

Although it was originally developed as a drug for diabetes, several clinical trials showed that Ozempic (semaglutide), in addition to diet and exercise, can help overweight and obese people lose significant weight.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Ozempic belongs to a class of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists.

When you consume food, your body naturally produces an intestinal hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). When GLP-1 binds to its receptors in the pancreas, it stimulates the secretion of insulin, another hormone that lowers blood sugar levels.

Semaglutide, the active substance in Ozempic, is a GLP-1 agonist – it mimics GLP-1 and can bind to GLP-1 receptors and trigger insulin secretion from the pancreas.

This is how Ozempic injections can help persons with type 2 diabetes lower their HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c), a marker of blood sugar control.

Can You Use Ozempic For Weight Loss?

The short answer is yes.

The glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) not only regulates blood glucose levels but also regulates your appetite. That is why it is known as a “natural fullness hormone.”

GLP-1 signals your brain that you are full and no longer hungry after a meal.

This is how Ozempic (semaglutide) can help with weight reduction. Since semaglutide mimics GLP-1, it suppresses your appetite, increases your feeling of fullness, and reduces cravings even if you have not eaten much.

That makes it easier to commit to a healthy diet without feeling hungry. You will eat fewer calories and still feel full, which will help you lose weight along with exercising.

Doctors may prescribe weight-loss medications, like Ozempic, to help patients lose weight before surgery.

But is Ozempic (semaglutide) suitable for everyone?

The use of medications to help lose weight is suitable for adults based on their body mass index (BMI) and whether they have weight-related medical conditions.

Your doctor may prescribe Ozempic to help you reduce your weight if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are clinically obese and have a BMI of 30 or more
  • Your BMI is greater than 27 (significantly overweight), and you have a medical problem related to obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

In general, you should avoid taking Ozempic if you are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Moreover, do not take Ozempic if:

  • You or anyone in your family has or ever had (MTC) medullary thyroid cancer
  • You have multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndrome (a rare endocrine condition that increases your risk of thyroid cancer)
  • You are allergic to any of the ingredients of Ozempic (semaglutide)

Avoid taking weight-loss pills or drugs before consulting your doctor or healthcare provider. Misuse of weight-loss meds can have dangerous consequences.

Despite their potential benefits, medications that help you lose weight may have possible side effects and contraindications.

The Possible Side Effects Of Ozempic

Clinical studies on Ozempic (semaglutide) revealed the following as the side effects that occurred most frequently:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reflux
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

In animal studies, mice and rats had a higher risk of developing a specific type of thyroid cancer after taking Ozempic. However, scientists still have no evidence of whether this may occur in humans.

Is Weight Loss By Ozempic Backed By Science?

The FDA approved Ozempic for the treatment of diabetes based on evidence from seven clinical trials of 4087 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM).

After that, clinical trials showed Ozempic (semaglutide) helps people lose weight.

A large double-blind trial investigated whether semaglutide can help adults with obesity or those who are significantly overweight lose weight.

The study included 1961 participants with a body-mass index ≥30 or ≥27 in people with ≥1 weight-related coexisting health concern. None of the participants had diabetes.

Half of the participants randomly received once-weekly semaglutide injections (at a dose of 2.4 mg) with lifestyle intervention for 68 weeks. The other half received a placebo instead, also with lifestyle intervention, for 68 weeks. 

On average, people who took semaglutide lost 14.9% of their weight. Weight reduction was 12.4% higher in participants who took semaglutide injections versus those who took the placebo.

  • 86.4% of patients lost at least 5% of their body weight
  • 69.1% lost at least 10%
  • 50.5% (more than half) lost at least 15% after 68 weeks of treatment with semaglutide

On average, patients in the semaglutide group lost 15.3 kg of their weight – 12.7 kg more than the weight loss achieved with the placebo (2.6 kg). 

The most common side effects of semaglutide were mild-to-moderate nausea and diarrhea that typically resolved with time.

Another randomized clinical trial compared the safety and efficacy of semaglutide with liraglutide (another GLP-1 agonist used for diabetes and weight loss) in people who are overweight or obese.

The study included 338 participants with a mean body mass index of 37.5.

Around half received once-weekly semaglutide (2.4 mg) injections for 68 weeks with diet and physical activity. The other half received once-daily liraglutide (3.0 mg) injections instead of semaglutide.

On average, people who took semaglutide lost 15.8% of their weight. Weight reduction was 9.4% higher in participants who took semaglutide injections versus those who took liraglutide. The participants on liraglutide had a 6.4% weight reduction.

Participants had a better chance of losing ≥10%, ≥15%, and ≥20% of their weight with semaglutide than with liraglutide.

  • Percentage of patients who lost ≥10% of their weight: 70.9% of patients with semaglutide vs. 25.6% of patients with liraglutide
  • Percentage of patients who lost ≥15% of their weight: 55.6% of patients with semaglutide vs. 12.0% of patients with liraglutide
  • Percentage of patients who lost ≥20% of their weight: 38.5% of patients with semaglutide vs. 6.0% of patients with liraglutide

These studies show that once-weekly Ozempic (semaglutide) injections are safe and effective for weight reduction in overweight or obese adults who do not have diabetes.

Moreover, Ozempic is more effective in reducing weight than other similar diabetes medications, such as liraglutide.

The final word:

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a drug used to treat diabetes and it can be a safe and effective weight loss medication as well. Studies show that it can help overweight and obese patients lose significant weight, and it is more effective in weight reduction than other similar weight-loss drugs, like liraglutide. 

However, Ozempic is not suitable for everyone, and it might do you more harm than good if you take it without consulting a doctor or healthcare provider first. Before using Ozempic, carefully read the leaflet from the manufacturer inside the pack before taking your first dose.

The thumb rule is to supplement healthy eating and exercise with prescription weight-loss medications, not the other way around.

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About the Author:
Dr. Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.


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