Semaglutide is a drug that has gained much attention in the weight loss world due to its potential effectiveness. It has only been available for a few years but has already had a significant impact for its potential to help people reach their weight loss goals. And in 2023, it was also greenlit for use in young people, furthering the discussion about the potential of the drug. It’s safe to say that everyone — from women experiencing menopause weight gain to teenagers combating obesity — is interested in the potential of semaglutide for weight loss.
In this blog, we will explore the basics of semaglutide, its development and approval process, how it works, who can take it, and its potential side effects and risks. We also look at its effectiveness for weight loss and provide an overview of the latest research. Finally, we conclude with some key points about semaglutide and why it could be an ideal solution for those looking to lose weight safely.
We hope that by the end of this blog, you will understand semaglutide and its potential benefits when it comes to weight loss and be able to make an educated decision about whether it is right for you.
What Is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is a prescription medication used for type 2 diabetes and weight loss in adults who are obese or overweight. It is the first FDA-approved drug treatment for chronic weight management since 2014. Semaglutide is an injectable medication that decreases appetite and can be used with lifestyle changes such as exercise, behavior change, and a reduced-calorie diet program.
When taken correctly, semaglutide can help people lose more weight than other medications on the market. In one study, participants taking semaglutide lost anywhere from five percent to 20 percent of their body weight. Of the 102 patients who were followed up at six months, the following results were observed:
- 89 (87.3%) – 5% or more
- 56 (54.9%) – 10% or more
- 24 (23.5%) – 15% or more
- 8 (7.8%) – 20% or more
Overall, semaglutide has been found to be effective in helping people lose weight when used correctly and combined with lifestyle changes such as exercise and a reduced-calorie diet program. However, it’s important to note that some people may regain lost pounds once they stop taking the medication, so it’s essential to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and discuss any concerns you have about the medication before starting treatment.
History of Semaglutide
Believe it or not, the history of semaglutide begins with Daniel Drucker, a scientist and endocrinologist at the University of Toronto, who combined a fascination with gut hormones and a curiosity about animal venom’s potential to treat diabetes and obesity. From the testing that began in 1995, different iterations of medications were eventually developed from hormones found in a venomous lizard’s saliva, eventually leading to semaglutide. Let’s explore the development of semaglutide and the FDA approval process.
Drucker, Hormones, and Type 2 Diabetes Treatment
Drucker’s work intrigued the Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk. So, they built on it, developing a synthetic version of the hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist.
A receptor agonist is a drug that binds to a particular receptor and activates it, thus causing an effect in the body. In this case, GLP-1 acts on the pancreas to stimulate insulin production and reduce glucagon levels, thereby increasing blood sugar disposal and improving glycemic control. And for those who don’t know, your pancreas produces insulin and glucagon, hormones that help regulate your blood sugar levels.
After refining their work to make it more stable and safer for humans, Novo Nordisk created a drug called semaglutide, with the brand name Ozempic, in 2012. It was put through various clinical trials and eventually granted regulatory approval by the FDA for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in October 2017 with a favorable vote of 16-0 from the FDA Advisory Committee.
Since this time, semaglutide injections have been approved by the FDA for:
- Treatment of type 2 diabetes for adults in December 2017
- Cardiovascular risk reduction for adults with type 2 diabetes in January 2020
- Higher-dose injections for increased glycemic control for adults with type 2 diabetes in March 2022
Semaglutide Injections for Weight Loss and Obesity Management
The introduction of semaglutide injections for weight loss and obesity management has been met with enthusiasm by the scientific community, particularly following the June 4, 2021, FDA approval of Wegovy (semaglutide). It showed how far semaglutide had come since its discovery in Gila Monster venom.
With obesity affecting over 40 percent of adults in America and continuing to rise, effective treatments are critical. Semaglutide injections are a promising option for individuals with obesity or who are overweight to lose weight and improve their health. Its consistent success in clinical trials and its FDA approval have shown that this medication can effectively treat those struggling with weight loss.
However, adults aren’t the only ones at risk of obesity. According to the CDC, the prevalence of childhood obesity has almost quadrupled since the 1970s, from 5.2 percent to 19.3 percent among those aged 2 to 19. With this in mind, Novo Nordisk conducted clinical trials to evaluate semaglutide’s efficacy in adolescents and children aged 12-17. These trials concluded at the end of 2021, with results showing great success in reducing body weight.
Results showed that while taking part in lifestyle intervention plus a once-weekly injection of a 2.4mg dose of semaglutide, participants experienced an average 16.1 percent decrease in BMI. In addition, 73 percent of participants also achieved a five percent or greater weight loss at week 68.
These favorable findings have now led to semaglutide (under the brand name Wegovy) injections being approved by the FDA for adolescents and children aged 12-17 who are obese or overweight. This is a great advancement that will help fight the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and its associated health risks.
How Does Semaglutide Work?
This is the part where we will get more technical and use some medical science jargon. We’ll try to keep it simple, but if you don’t get it all, the main takeaway is this:
Semaglutide is an exciting and valuable synthetic hormone. It works by making the pancreas produce more insulin (a hormone that helps your body use the energy from food) and by reducing the amount of glucagon (a hormone that raises the levels of sugar in your blood) in the body. This leads to improved glycemic control and better weight management. It also affects the brain, decreasing hunger hormones and causing a feeling of fullness.
Now, for the more technical version…
Semaglutide works by binding to and activating the GLP-1 receptor in the pancreas, stimulating insulin secretion and reducing glucagon levels. This helps improve glycemic control while also suppressing appetite, leading to weight loss. It also increases fat breakdown and decreases fat uptake.
Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, which means it binds to GLP-1 receptors in the body and activates them. This activation of GLP-1 receptors leads to improved efficiency of incretin function. Semaglutide does this by increasing insulin secretion, lowering glucagon secretion, slowing gastric emptying, and suppressing appetite.
The main benefit of semaglutide is its ability to help people with type 2 diabetes better manage their blood glucose levels. Semaglutide can also help people with obesity lose weight and improve their overall health. In addition to these benefits, semaglutide has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
A Brief History of Hormones and Weight Loss
For those wondering about the connection between hormones and weight loss, it is important to understand a bit of history to know that this isn’t all weird sci-fi stuff. It has actually been around for a long time.
In the early 1900s, scientists began understanding how hormones could affect metabolism and body weight. In particular, they discovered that thyroid hormones were important for regulating metabolic rate and energy expenditure. This research led to the development of medications such as thyroxine, which is still used today to treat hypothyroidism.
In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists explored other hormones that could influence weight loss. For example, they found that sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone impacted body fat distribution and appetite regulation. This research led to the development of medications such as birth control pills, which are still used today to regulate hormone levels in women.
Researchers have recently focused on understanding how hormones can be manipulated to promote weight loss. For example, studies have shown that specific interventions can reduce hunger levels and increase satiety, improving weight loss outcomes.
There has also been a movement towards understanding how supplementing hormones through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can help those transitioning through menopause and experiencing hormone imbalances that come with aging. For example, hormone imbalance in men has been linked to obesity and metabolic diseases, so supplementing these hormones through BHRT can be beneficial.
Is Semaglutide the Answer to Healthy Weight Loss?
Semaglutide is one of the latest treatments for type 2 diabetes and obesity. It has been proven to be effective in reducing glucose levels, suppressing appetite, and leading to weight loss. However, it is important to remember that semaglutide is not a magic pill. It should always be combined with lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest.
You also need to work closely with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to ensure that you take semaglutide safely and effectively for your individual needs. Your healthcare provider will be able to monitor your progress, provide advice on lifestyle changes, and adjust your dosage as necessary.
It also requires commitment on your part. Weekly injections of semaglutide can be challenging to keep up with, and non-compliance with the treatment regimen can lead to decreased effectiveness and increased risk of side effects. In addition, semaglutide alone won’t lead to healthy and sustainable weight loss. You must be willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes to help you reach your goals.
Final Thoughts on Semaglutide for Weight Loss
Semaglutide can be an effective mechanism for weight loss, but it should not be seen as a miracle cure. Instead, semaglutide should be combined with other treatments and lifestyle changes to ensure safe and sustainable weight loss. To maximize the benefits of semaglutide, it is essential that you consult with your healthcare provider to create a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. With dedication and commitment, semaglutide could be the missing link in helping you meet your desired weight goals. However, this should only ever be done under the direct guidance of a qualified medical professional.