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For years, people have tried all sorts of methods to lose weight in search of the perfect solution that will help them shed pounds with minimal effort. This is evidenced by a global weight loss industry currently worth a staggering $175.44 billion and is only projected to grow. Yet a new trend triggered by social media, celebrities, news coverage, and clever advertising has emerged, enticing millions of Americans to turn to a potentially dangerous drug to lose weight.

A Diabetes Drug Used for Weight Loss

Ozempic, also known as semaglutide, was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for use in adults with type 2 diabetes—a condition associated with obesity and poor diet. Although it was designed as a weekly injection to help lower blood sugar by forcing the pancreas to produce more insulin, researchers noticed during pre-approval studies it had an unintended side-effect during pre-approval studies: weight loss.

This encouraged patients without diabetes to request the drug be prescribed off-label to help them lose weight. According to a recent survey,15% of Americans have personally taken Ozempic for weight loss, 42% of medical practitioners have had patients without diabetes ask for a prescription, 18% have prescribed it for weight loss, and 14% of medical practitioners have taken the drug themselves.

Drug Manufacturer Responded to Demand

As demand grew for Ozempic, the drug’s manufacturer Novo Nordisk, who reportedly spent $11 million last year “wining and dining doctors” to educate prescribers about its popular weight loss drugs, developed another version of Ozempic called Wegovy. Wegovy was approved by the FDA in 2021 for weight loss and contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic but in a higher amount.

Both Ozempic and Wegovy are 1 (GLP-1) agonists that mimic the GLP-1 hormone released from cells in the small intestine and in smaller quantities by the pancreas and central nervous system. Although GLP-1 has many important functions in the body, it plays a crucial role in regulating fullness, insulin, and stomach emptying. Thus, the drug works by suppressing the appetite.

Do They Work for Weight Loss?

These drugs are designed to be taken long-term, and the dosages increase over the course of five months. The amount of weight people report losing while taking either medication ranges anywhere from 10 pounds in 30 weeks to 15% of body weight.

The problem, aside from the fact that losing weight is not synonymous with losing fat, is that weight-loss drugs are designed to be taken long-term and have significant and potentially severe negative effects on the body—many of which are unknown.

Are Ozempic and Wegovy Safe?

According to Wegovy’s website, in studies with rodents, both Wegovy and Ozempic caused thyroid tumors, including thyroid cancer, and it is not known if the drug will cause thyroid tumors or cancer in people. Because of this, both Wegovy and Ozempic carry box warnings—formerly known as “black box warnings”— which are the highest safety-related warnings the FDA can assign to medications.

In addition to potential thyroid tumors and cancer, these drugs can cause multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2, kidney failure, inflammation of the pancreas, low blood sugar, gallbladder problems, nervous system disorders, vision changes, and suicidal thoughts that reportedly persist and increase in severity with higher doses of the drug.

Although it’s understandable why someone would turn to a medication to lose weight, it would appear the ease of a once-a-week injection doesn’t outweigh the potential side effects, nor does it compare to the benefits of the things we know work, such as dietary and lifestyle changes.

Megan Redshaw

Megan Redshaw

Megan is an attorney and journalist with additional expertise in natural health. She has a flare for breaking down complex and controversial topics into easy-to-synthesize and entertaining pieces that empower others to make informed decisions.

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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