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Semaglutide for Weight Loss: Benefits, Risks, and Who Should Consider It



Semaglutide is a medication that has recently gained attention for its potential use in weight loss. In 2021, the FDA approved a high dose of semaglutide for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight. But what is semaglutide, how does it work, and who should consider it? This article will provide an in-depth look at the use of semaglutide for weight loss.


What is Semaglutide?


Semaglutide is a medication in the class of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. These medications work by mimicking the effects of GLP-1, a hormone that is naturally produced in the body to regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety. Semaglutide is administered as a once-weekly injection and is currently approved for use in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and, more recently, for chronic weight management.


Benefits of Semaglutide for Weight Loss


Semaglutide has been shown to promote significant weight loss in clinical trials. In a randomized controlled trial involving nearly 2,000 adults with obesity or overweight, those who received semaglutide lost an average of 15% of their body weight over 68 weeks, compared to 2.4% in the placebo group. Participants in the semaglutide group also experienced improvements in other metabolic parameters, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Another study showed that semaglutide may have a positive impact on weight-related quality of life. Participants in the semaglutide group reported greater improvements in their physical functioning, self-esteem, and overall quality of life compared to those in the placebo group.


Risks of Semaglutide for Weight Loss


As with any medication, there are potential risks associated with the use of semaglutide. The most common side effects reported in clinical trials were gastrointestinal in nature, such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other less common but more serious side effects include pancreatitis, kidney injury, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of semaglutide with a healthcare provider before starting treatment.


Who Should Consider Semaglutide for Weight Loss?


Semaglutide may be a viable option for individuals who have struggled with weight loss through traditional methods such as diet and exercise. It is currently approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or greater who also have at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.


It is important to note that semaglutide is not a magic solution for weight loss and should be used in combination with a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise. Additionally, individuals with a history of pancreatitis, thyroid cancer, or other medical conditions may not be suitable candidates for semaglutide.


Semaglutide has shown promising results in promoting weight loss in clinical trials and has been approved by the FDA for use in chronic weight management. However, it is important to weigh the potential risks and benefits of semaglutide with a healthcare provider before starting treatment. As with any weight loss strategy, semaglutide should be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise.



Further Reading / Citations:


Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, et al. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(11):989


Davies MJ, Bergenstal R, Bode B, et al. Efficacy of Liraglutide for Weight Loss Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: The SCALE Diabetes Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015;314(7):687-699. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.9676


Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity Society. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S102-S138. doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000437739.71477.ee


Wilding JP, Batterham RL, Calanna S, et al. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(11):989-1002. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2032183


FDA approves new drug treatment for chronic weight management, June 2021, https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-drug-treatment-chronic-weight-management


ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03548935. Accessed April 7, 2023.

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