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Ozempic And Weight Loss: Your Questions Answered

Posted on June 23, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff

Ozempic® (semaglutide) is a medication approved to control blood sugar (glucose) for people with type 2 diabetes. It is an injection taken once weekly. Ozempic (and a similar drug called Wegovy®) also slows digestion, helping people feel fuller longer so they eat less. 

So it’s not surprising that doctors are prescribing these medications to help some people lose weight. But they’re not for everyone, says Suki Singh, M.D., a family and obesity medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. 

“Ozempic’s popularity as a weight loss medication has grown through social media recently. However, it’s not a magic pill. But Ozempic can be effective as part of a weight loss plan that includes a balanced diet and exercise.” 

Here Dr. Singh answers frequently asked questions about Ozempic and how it can support weight loss.

How Does Ozempic Help You Lose Weight?  

People with type 2 diabetes have lower levels of a hormone known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Ozempic mimics the GLP-1 hormone, triggering insulin production to control blood sugar after eating. 

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Ozempic also interacts with the part of your brain that suppresses appetite and slows food movement through the stomach and digestive track. As a result, this medication has been shown to help people eat less and lose weight. In one study, about half of the participants taking Ozempic lost 15% of their body weight after 17 months.

“Weight loss results vary by patient, depending upon many factors, including compliance with diet and physical activity,” says Dr. Singh. “You get the best results when you’re 100% engaged in an overall weight loss plan.”    

Who Can Benefit From Taking Ozempic For Weight Loss?

“Many people with type 2 diabetes also struggle with chronic hunger, even after eating a large meal. Ozempic helps them feel full sooner, reducing their daily calories and increasing digestive hormones so they can lose weight,” says Dr. Singh. 

Others who may benefit include people with:

  • A body mass index (BMI) of 30 and no chronic conditions
  • A BMI of 27 and chronic conditions that could improve with weight loss 

However, Ozempic isn’t appropriate for everyone. According to Dr. Singh, people who are not candidates for Ozempic include people with: 

  • A personal history of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Active gallbladder disease (gallstones)
  • Kidney disease
  • A personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) syndrome

What Are The Side Effects Of Ozempic? 

“Some patients experience nausea when beginning Ozempic,” says Dr. Singh. She recommends eating smaller meals to reduce nausea and other side effects such as belching, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.

“Your doctor will monitor your progress and slowly adjust your dose to support weight loss. If you require insulin, your doctor may also adjust your insulin dose requirements to manage your blood sugar,” says Dr. Singh.

How Can Ozempic Fit Into Your Overall Weight Loss Plan?

Talk with your doctor and share your medical history if you’re considering Ozempic for weight loss. “Discuss diets and other strategies you’ve tried to lose weight. Be honest about why these methods did not work,” says Dr. Singh. “The key to successful weight loss is a comprehensive program that includes healthy lifestyle changes that include dietary and exercise modification.”

Your doctor can help develop a weight loss plan that includes the following:

  • A balanced diet: Eat three small meals with two light snacks daily to manage blood sugar, boost energy and satisfy your hunger. Plan nutrient-rich meals and snacks that include protein, carbohydrates, fiber, fruits and vegetables. This staggered meal plan reduces the risk of reaching for foods high in fat, salt or added sugars to satisfy your hunger. Avoid skipping meals, as it may increase nausea—one side effect of the medication.
  • An exercise program: Regular exercise is vital to weight loss and overall health. If you’re new to exercise, start with shorter sessions throughout the day. Get moving with a morning walk or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Add in strength training to maintain muscle mass and stretching to improve flexibility. Aim for 200 to 250 minutes of weekly physical activity as you build stamina. 

Getting Ozempic from a pharmacy approved by your doctor is also important. Check with your doctor before taking any weight loss medications to ensure they are safe and appropriate for you.  

“While Ozempic can help modify digestive activities within the body, lifestyle changes can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight long-term,” says Dr. Singh. “Your doctor can advise you on whether Ozempic is right for you and provide resources for your weight loss journey.”

Reviewed by Suki Singh, M.D., a family and obesity medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Plymouth.

Categories : FeelWell

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