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Should You Use Semaglutide to Improve Weight Loss?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Semaglutide, a medication that was originally approved to treat diabetes, has recently gained popularity as an effective and safe weight loss treatment. It is the first drug approved for chronic weight management in obese or overweight adults since Saxenda’s approval in 2014. Despite being hailed as a game-changer, Semaglutide is not a miracle drug and is not suitable for everyone.

According to Vijaya Surampudi, a physician nutrition specialist and assistant director of the UCLA Weight Management Program, obesity is a complex and chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. While Semaglutide has shown promising results in weight loss, it is crucial to remember that obesity treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Semaglutide, a once-weekly injection, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2021 for chronic weight management in adults when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Before its approval, Semaglutide had gained widespread attention due to its reported weight loss findings of 15% to 18% during clinical trials, which is higher than what is typically seen with other weight loss medications.

Since its approval for adults, Semaglutide has also been approved for chronic weight management in adolescents aged 12 and older. It is important to remember that Semaglutide is not a magic pill nor a substitute for healthy lifestyle choices. It is crucial to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine if Semaglutide is an appropriate option and to create a personalized weight management plan that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise.

In this article, we will dive deeper into Semaglutide to see if this is an option you should speak to your doctor about.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before using any supplements or changing your diet to improve weight loss. You should never use any medication for purposes other than what it is intended for.

What is Semaglutide?

Semaglutide is an injectable medication that is typically administered once a week. It was first used as a treatment for regulating blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. During clinical trials, it was discovered that people taking Semaglutide could significantly reduce their body weight and control their blood sugar levels.

Semaglutide works by regulating the amount of insulin released from the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Also, it slows down the movement of food through the digestive system, which can decrease appetite and lead to weight loss.

How does Semaglutide Work for Weight Loss?

The hormone GLP-1, an incretin hormone, plays a significant role in regulating digestion and appetite. Incretins, which are hormones that are released by the digestive tract, are activated when you eat a meal. They aid in reducing blood sugar levels by triggering insulin release and inhibiting sugar production.

In addition, they decrease the speed at which food leaves your stomach, which results in a feeling of fullness, leading to weight loss. GLP-1 agonists, such as Semaglutide, are a class of medications that imitate these effects and are referred to as incretin mimetics.

GLP-1 agonists like Semaglutide have been discovered to positively impact weight loss. This is due to their ability to reduce appetite, increase feelings of fullness, and slow gastric emptying. These benefits have been observed in individuals with and without type 2 diabetes.

What Does the Science Say?

There have been many anti-obesity medications that help prevent appetite and achieve weight loss, but Semaglutide performs on a whole new level.

In a study that involved 2,000 obese adults, those who used Semaglutide in combination with a healthy diet and exercise program were compared with individuals who only made lifestyle changes without using the medication. The results showed that after 68 weeks, half of the participants taking Semaglutide lost 15% of their body weight, with almost a third losing 20% of their initial weight. On the other hand, individuals who only made lifestyle changes experienced an average weight loss of 2.4%.

Further studies have yielded similar findings, indicating that Semaglutide is an effective treatment for weight loss. However, researchers have also observed that people tend to regain the weight lost after stopping the medication.

Is Semaglutide for Everyone?

The FDA recommends Semaglutide for weight loss if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a BMI of 27kg/m2 or greater and at least one weight-linked condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
  • Have a BMI of 30kg/m2 or more.

It is better not to take Semaglutide if you have the following conditions:

  • History of gallbladder disease
  • History of medullary thyroid cancer
  • History of pancreatitis
  • Various endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2

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