Chances are, if you’ve been researching ways to accomplish your weight loss goals, you’ve heard of semaglutide (also known as Ozempic or Wegovy). The Ozempic diet trend has gone viral on social media and has even been dubbed “Hollywood’s new weight loss drug” by some national media outlets.
“Semaglutide has definitely become very popular over the last two years since Wegovy was approved for weight loss,” Jessica Gonzalez Hernandez, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Bon Secours St. Francis, shares. “Patients have been losing so much weight that most people have heard about it, and now everyone wants it.”
Did you know that Ozempic (semaglutide) was originally approved as a treatment for type 2 diabetes? It works by helping the pancreas release the right amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are high. This injectable medication can also slow the movement of food through the stomach, which researchers quickly discovered could have major benefits for another patient population.
“They noticed patients were losing a significant amount of weight,” Dr. Gonzalez adds. “Further study showed a higher dose of semaglutide (Wegovy) was very beneficial for weight loss, and it’s since been approved by the FDA for that purpose.”
The problem with more patients benefitting from this drug is that the increased demand has led to a shortage.
“Many patients I talk to want to know why we’re using this medication for weight loss when it’s supposed to be for diabetes,” Dr. Gonzalez shares. “However, we have to understand that both diabetes and obesity are chronic diseases and they both need it tremendously. If we used the medication for patients without obesity, that would be different, but for patients with obesity, it’s definitely a necessity.”
It is important to note that Ozempic or Wegovy is likely not the best solution for the average person just hoping for a quick weight loss solution. The medication has several gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation.
“Obesity is a chronic disease, meaning you have to treat it all the time,” Dr. Gonzalez explains. “So, for any patient who doesn’t modify their eating or physical activity habits, they’re at risk of regaining the weight. A patient with obesity always has to be cognizant that they have to make lifelong habit changes to help control their weight, and some need to be on medication long-term.”
According to Dr. Gonzalez, obesity treatment is not one size fits all.
“Everybody can say you should lose weight with diet and exercise, but that doesn’t work for everyone, or if it does, it takes a long time. Patients who already have medical comorbidities, like diabetes or high blood pressure, are at risk of having those conditions worsen. So, it might be safer for them to have surgery to lose the weight and improve those medical comorbidities faster. Wegovy was recently found to lower the risk of major cardiovascular events by 20 percent in adults ages 45 and older who have a history of cardiovascular disease and are overweight or obese. This is a great finding for those patients that want to avoid surgery without increasing their risk of having a heart attack trying to lose weight if it takes a prolonged period of time.”
At the end of the day, semaglutide is one of many other potential treatment options for those wanting to lead a healthier life. The key to success is finding the path that’s right for you.
“Every day, weight loss medications and surgery are becoming safer and helping patients have a healthier life,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “It’s very important to discuss with your primary care provider what options you have for weight loss.”
Learn about the weight loss solutions we provide at Bon Secours.