Ozempic: Diabetes Drug That’s Going Viral for Diminishing Waistlines

It's no secret that our society promotes unrealistic beauty standards. Celebrities are constantly taking extreme measures to stay thin and beautiful-practically flawless. The newest trend taking the internet by storm? A diabetes drug treatment that is being used for weight loss.

Key takeaways:
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    Ozempic is a Type 2 diabetes treatment injection that is now being used to aid in dramatic weight loss results.
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    Taking Ozempic is a long-term management plan not just for weight loss but for our health entirety and should be combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
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    While considered a safe drug, Ozempic should only be used by those who are considered very overweight or obese and have other underlying health conditions.

There are rumors about which celebrities may be using the drug, Ozempic, including Kim Kardashian who has recently lost considerable weight. One celebrity who isn't shy about using the drug is the CEO of Tesla (and Twitter), Elon Musk. He has publicly admitted to using the diabetes injection drug in addition to fasting to help shed some extra unwanted weight.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic uses the active ingredient, semaglutide, as an insulin regulator to help treat Type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a drug class called the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists that mimic our GLP-1 hormone and help reduce blood sugar after a meal. While it was initially created in 2012 by manufacturer Novo Nordisk, it wasn't granted by the FDA as a diabetes treatment until 2017. However, as soon as doctors realized the weight loss side effect, a higher dose of semaglutide was created and approved for weight loss in 2021 under the brand, Wegovy. A 2021 study showed individuals losing up to 15% of their body weight after a trial with a placebo and controlled participants.

Note
Wegovy and Ozempic are the exact same drugs, just under two different trade name labels. Ozempic is approved for type 2 diabetes, and Wegovy for obesity, but they both have the same active ingredient!

How does it work in the body?

Our brain can regulate our body's weight in a few ways, but the POMC or proopiomelanocortin pathway tells our body to eat less and store less food. So when we inject ourselves with Ozempic, it first stimulates the POMC pathway and then releases insulin into the body, lowering our blood sugar levels. This then slows down the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine, keeping us feeling full and satiated for longer. It also helps brown your white fat tissue, making it easier to burn fat during rest and activity.

Side effects

Ozempic has proven to be a very safe drug overall, but it is still a drug, and that means it naturally comes with side effects. Some side effects are more common than others, so it's essential to be aware of them:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
Note
Nausea is the most common side effect of Ozempic, and it's important to note that most users experience some level of nausea when they begin taking the drug.

There are always more severe (usually less common) side effects than others. So as a preliminary caution, it's also important to watch for conditions like thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, hypoglycemia, kidney damage, and diabetic retinopathy (diabetes-related eye problems).

Who should refrain from taking Ozempic?

Anyone who is pregnant or has a (personal or family) history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) type 2 should refrain from the medication. In addition, those with a history of pancreatitis should proceed with caution. Always talk to your doctor first to see if Ozempic is a good option.

Is it safe to take?

Yes! A 2021 study from Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed favorable outcomes with a GLP-1 receptor agonist (Ozempic) and support for both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular benefits, including:

  • Three-point major adverse coronary events.
  • Cardiovascular death.
  • Fatal or non-fatal myocardial infarction.
  • Fatal or non-fatal stroke.
  • All-cause mortality.
  • Hospital admission for heart failure.
  • Composite kidney outcome, including macroalbuminuria.

Can I take Ozempic for weight loss?

While celebrities and influencers have promoted Ozempic as the next 'quick-fix' for weight loss, it doesn't make it a universal drug. What's good for one person doesn't automatically make it suitable for the next. So before you talk to your doctor, consider these factors:

Prior health conditions

There are initial concerns with prior health conditions, pregnancy, and diseases. Still, society sees health by what's on the outside rather than what's on the inside. We need to start looking at not just the number on the scale but things like insulin levels, fatty liver disease, arthritis, etc. Individuals that are obese or severely obese will often come with a slew of health conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

Your 'why?'

Ozempic would be perfect for a candidate who is obese and has several health conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure. The drug will not only benefit the individual in weight loss, but it can also help manage other conditions. On the other hand, someone who wants to lose 10 to 15 pounds before vacation wouldn't be the best candidate. They might lose the weight, but they will (quickly) gain it back once the injections stop because they are no longer impacting the brain and the GI tract like they were.

A lifelong commitment

Obesity (like most health conditions) is a lifelong management process. Just because your blood pressure is at a healthy level or you finally lost those 20 pounds you've been working so hard for doesn't mean it's automatically gone forever. As soon as you stop taking your blood pressure medication or fall back into unhealthy lifestyle habits, you're right back to where you started. With Ozempic, not only does the long-term management process include the injections, but other lifestyle changes, too. Like any healthy weight loss program, it's crucial to incorporate nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle. Working with a trainer and dietician can also help you reach (and maintain!) these goals.

Is Ozempic the 'next big thing,' or is it just another trend?

While the diabetes drug is running viral right now, there's no telling if it's here to stay. Drugs like Fen-Phen were wildly popular in the 90s before they were taken off the market due to several liable fatalities. Fatima Stanford (MD, MPH, MPA), a physician in obesity medicine at Massachusetts General, tells Health News, "I think there is a room for all agents for weight regulation, including phentermine, a safe drug that has gotten a bad reputation since it was coupled with fenfluramine which caused heart valvulopathy. Different people respond to different agents. However, GLP-1s have a high level of efficacy in many patients with a good safety profile."

While Fen-phen had to be reformulated into a new (safer) drug for consumption, Ozempic has so far shown promising results, catching our attention, one view at a time. Finally, it is still not approved by the FDA as a weight loss medication. Until then, make sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new medications.

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