New FDA-Approved Weight Loss Treatment: Semaglutide
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What is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is an injectable glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist that’s administered once weekly. It was originally approved in 2017— at a lower dose under the brand name Ozempic — to help control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes. People taking Ozempic for blood sugar control also tend to lose weight as an additional benefit.
Because of this, Novo Nordisk studied the medication in people without Type 2 diabetes, but at a higher dose. Now, semaglutide (under the brand name Wegovy) is FDA-approved for weight loss. It can be used by adults with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30 mg/kg² alone or 27 mg/kg² with at least one weight-related condition (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes).
Semaglutide should be used in combination with lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet and exercise.
How Does Semaglutide Work?
GLP-1 is an incretin hormone that plays a role in your appetite and digestion. Incretins — hormones released by your digestive tract — are sent out by your body after you’ve eaten a meal. They help lower your blood sugar by triggering insulin release and blocking sugar production. They also slow down how quickly food leaves your stomach (called gastric emptying).
The result of these actions causes you to feel full — lowering your appetite and causing you to lose weight. Medications like GLP-1 agonists are referred to as incretin mimetics since they “mimic” these effects.
You’ll give yourself the injection once a week, on the same day each week. It can be given at any time of day, and you can take it with or without food.
Semaglutide is typically injected just under the skin (subcutaneously) in your abdomen, upper arm, or thigh. Avoid injecting the medication into the same spot every time — change your injection site with each dose. But injecting in the same body area (e.g., thigh) is OK as long as you’re rotating sites within the area each time.
Since semaglutide slows down how quickly food leaves your stomach, you may experience side effects like nausea and vomiting. Once you get started on the medication, your healthcare provider will slowly increase your dosage every 4 weeks. This can help make these effects more manageable.