Ozempic for Obesity
Obesity Health Concerns
Ozempic for Obesity: Weight Loss and Side Effects

Ozempic has become an increasingly popular drug and has many people asking if they can use Ozempic for obesity treatment. Ozempic is an injectible medication that's primary purpose is to help manage blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. Although it is not labeled as a weight loss drug, Ozempic has recently garnered popularity in the mainstream media due to the weight loss many users are experiencing. 

In 2017, the FDA approved Ozempic as a diabetic medication. In 2021, they approved Wegovy, a drug with a more potent dose of the main active ingredient in Ozempic (semaglutide), for patients with obesity. So, with all the talk surrounding Ozempic and Wegovy, we want to dig into what these drugs actually do and what, if any, are the long-term effects of using them. 

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a weekly injectable medication formulated for type 2 diabetic adults. The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide, an FDA-approved ingredient that helps to control insulin levels by facilitating the pancreas in releasing the right amount of insulin to manage blood sugar levels. Ozempic is also believed to help adults with type 2 diabetes and known heart diseases lower their risk of cardiovascular events, such as a stroke or heart attack. 

But to understand the role semaglutide plays in diabetes management, let's first revisit what diabetes is. 

A Quick Note About Diabetes

Diabetes is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder characterized by frequently high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Glucose (sugar) levels in the blood are tightly regulated by insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas), which is designed to keep our blood sugar levels in a reasonably narrow range. Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body's cells not responding correctly to the insulin produced (type 2 diabetes). 

Diabetes Guide for Bariatric Patients
Diabetes Guide
Diabetes is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder characterized by frequently high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period of time.  In this guide, we go over everything you need to know about diabetes including how to diagnose and treat this disease.
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How Does Semaglutide Work?

Semaglutide works by helping the pancreas release the correct amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are too high. This insulin supports the conversion of sugar from the blood into energy, which can ultimately help with weight loss. Similarly, semaglutide works by slowing down digestion, which may decrease appetite. 

Therefore, as a result, people who take Ozempic or Wegovy are likely to experience weight loss and, subsequently, improvement in other health conditions. Yet, it is important to note that semaglutide does not replace the use of insulin in type 2 diabetics. 

Side Effects of Ozempic and Wegovy

Ozempic and Wegovy are known to have varying degrees of side effects. Some minor side effects that can be more easily managed include nausea, dehydration, fatigue, stomach pain, and changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea and constipation. These symptoms most often subside within a few days or weeks. Since this drug does slow digestion, physicians recommend that patients taking Ozempic or Wegovy slow down when eating to improve the gastrointestinal side effects. Avoiding high-fat foods that can cause or exacerbate these gastrointestinal issues is also recommended. 

Some less common but more severe side effects include: 

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), 
  • Changes in vision
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Kidney problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Gallbladder issues
  • Thyroid tumors or cancer

Although these more serious side effects are rare, they can cause lasting damage to your health, and therefore you should consult with your physician to ensure your continued health while taking the drug. 

Should I take Ozempic for Obesity Treatment?

In one clinical trial, 1,961 overweight and obese adults who did not have diabetes were given 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide or a placebo once a week for 68 weeks and required to undergo a lifestyle intervention. Those who took semaglutide lost 14.9% of their body weight compared to 2.4% for those who took the placebo. 

Although semaglutide can help with weight loss, the weight loss will be temporary if the patient does not change their eating and exercise habits. 

“Studies show that stopping Ozempic completely will likely lead to regaining most of the weight lost within several months,” notes Rekha Kumar, M.D., head of Medical Affairs at an evidence-based weight care program Found, and practicing endocrinologist at an academic medical center in New York City.

Therefore, for patients looking to lose more than 50% of their excess body weight, we do not recommend taking Wegovy or Ozepmpic for obesity treatment. Not only will these drugs not result in lasting weight loss and cause unwanted gastrointestinal side effects, but they can be expensive. 

Ozempic and Wegovy are essentially the same drugs; they just have different doses of semaglutide. Despite this similarity, Ozempic is often covered by insurance, while, Wegovy is not. Without insurance, Ozempic is about $900, and Wegovy is about $1,300 for a month’s supply. 

For patients who want to lose a significant percentage of their excess body weight, bariatric surgery may be a valuable tool for substantial and sustained weight loss. If you are considered obese based on the body mass index chart, we recommend exploring bariatric surgery as a treatment option for your obesity. To get started today, you can schedule an appointment on our website

Mike Blaney, MD
Dr. Mike Blaney is a board-certified surgeon with over 20 years of experience in general and bariatric surgery. He is the founding physician of Live Healthy MD which has since been acquired by HCA and now operates under the name Doctors Specialists – Bariatrics and Surgical. Dr. Blaney is co-founder and CEO of Bariatric Centers of America and is fueled by a passion to cure the disease of obesity.
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