November 28, 2023

Celebs such as Chelsea Handler and the Real Housewives of New Jersey star Dolores Catania have touted the use of Ozempic, a diabetes drug, as a highly effective weight loss aid. Although the drug is not approved for weight loss by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is increasingly being prescribed off-label for that use, and not entirely without reason.

Some research suggests that semaglutide (which is marketed as Ozempic and another brand, Wegovy) and tirzepatide (a drug sold under the brand name Mounjaro) really do work as a way to trim down. A large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2021 found that people who took semaglutide lost an average of 14.9 percent of their body weight over 68 weeks. A small earlier study of 30 people that was published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism in September 2017 found that people who received injections of the drug once a week for 12 weeks ate 24 percent fewer calories than people in a control group.

All these medications work essentially by mimicking the natural hormones that regulate hunger and feelings of fullness. Semaglutides like Ozempic, which were first FDA-approved for diabetes treatment in 2017, contain an active ingredient that lowers blood sugar levels by helping the pancreas produce more insulin, thus preventing the liver from releasing too much sugar, and slowing the rate at which food travels through the digestive system. These actions can be useful to treat diabetes, in which an inability to make or properly use insulin can leave blood sugar unchecked, according to the American Diabetes Association. But these drugs hold promise for other metabolic benefits, including weight loss.

For many who have struggled to lose weight their entire lives, drugs like Ozempic have been nothing short of miraculous. But if you’ve been considering asking your doctor for a prescription, there are some things you should know first.


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