How Does Semaglutide Work?

hands holding injectable semaglutide pen

Since its approval by the FDA in 2021, semaglutide has become increasingly popular as an option for medical weight loss. Individuals who have struggled to lose weight despite lifestyle modifications are finding great success with the drug. But how, exactly, does semaglutide work? Why is it so successful in promoting weight loss? 

Different Forms of Semaglutide

The FDA has approved three forms of semaglutide, marketed under different brand names:

  1. Ozempic is an injectable form used to control type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar. It is also used to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death in diabetic individuals or those with known heart disease. Off label, it can be used to promote weight loss. 
  2. Rybelsus is a tablet form of semaglutide approved to lower blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  3. Wegovy is an injection specifically approved for individuals aged 12 and older to promote weight loss alongside a healthy diet and exercise. 

Which Type of Semaglutide Will I Be Given for Weight Loss?

The only FDA approved form of semaglutide specifically for weight loss is Wegovy. However, many providers use Ozempic off-label for this same purpose. Both forms are made by the same pharmaceutical company and are typically administered weekly via intramuscular injection (i.e. the thighs or abdomen). 

What is Compounded Semaglutide?

Because of its incredible outcomes, semaglutide is in increasingly high demand. In fact, both Ozempic and Wegovy are currently on the 2023 Drug Shortages list. For this reason, many clinics (including Balanced Body Health & Wellness) choose to use a compounded form of semaglutide.This is typically a combination of semaglutide and one or more vitamins, such as B12.

Using a compounded product allows clinics to accommodate as many patients as possible when a preferred drug is in shortage. Compounded semaglutide is also, typically, much more affordable than brand name versions.

You should be aware that compounded semaglutide is not FDA approved, as its contents are entirely up to the compounding pharmacy that makes it. However, compounders do need to meet requirements set forth by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. At Balanced Body, we outsource only to pharmacies that meet stringent standards for safety, quality, and consistency. 

So, How Does Semaglutide Work?

Semaglutide is what is known as a glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. The GLP-1 receptor is a protein that is found on the cells of your pancreas and neurons in your brain. Its primary function is to regulate blood sugar by stimulating insulin secretion. 

Glucagon is a hormone that causes the overall glucose (sugar) level in your blood to rise, while insulin lowers it. GLP-1 receptor agonists, like semaglutide, encourage the body to produce more insulin, effectively lowering your blood sugar. 

At higher doses, GLP-1 receptor agonists also affect the area of the brain associated with hunger. They act on receptors to signal a feeling of fullness and reduce food cravings. In other words, you simply don’t feel as hungry any more. This reduction in appetite alongside diet and exercise has shown unprecedented results in the realm of medical weight loss. 

How Does Semaglutide Work if You Are on Metformin?

You may be wondering if and how semaglutide works if you are already taking type 2 diabetes medication, such as metformin. In many cases, you can safely combine the two medications. Semaglutide can help enhance the effects of metformin if it is not adequately regulating your blood sugar on its own. You will discuss whether or not combining these medications is right for you, as some side effects can occur. For example, semaglutide is not known to cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) on its own, but it can do so when coupled with metformin and other drugs. 

How Much Weight Will I Lose With Semaglutide?

The amount of weight you lose with semaglutide will depend on a few factors. These include your current weight, your dose, and your adherence to diet and exercise plans. That being said, most patients lose an average of 2-4 lbs per week. Studies have found that you can expect to lose up to 10.9% of your body weight after six months of semaglutide treatment. 

How Does Semaglutide Work After You Stop Taking It?

Semaglutide may remain in your system for up to five weeks after you have discontinued it. Your provider may recommend slowly tapering off the drug to decrease side effects, such as a spike in blood sugar. 

Once it is fully eliminated from your system, however, semaglutide will no longer have any effect on your GLP-1 receptors. This means that you will begin to feel familiar feelings of hunger that were suppressed by the semaglutide. Your provider will work with you prior to stopping the drug to prepare for an increased appetite and offer strategies to help you maintain your weight loss. 

Who is Eligible for Semaglutide for Weight Loss?

There are two scenarios that can help your provider decide if semaglutide is right for you. Most patients will have either:

  1. A BMI of 27 and at least one weight-related health issue, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes; OR,
  2. A BMI of 30, with or without any other weight-related health issues.

These are guidelines established by the FDA specifically for the use of Wegovy. Ultimately, your eligibility will be determined by your healthcare provider. 

Semaglutide Injections in Omaha

Our clinic offers holistic, customized strategies to help each of our patients achieve their wellness goals. This includes medical weight loss, when appropriate. If you have been struggling to lose weight despite lifestyle modifications, semaglutide may be an option for you. Please call or go online to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation or a new patient appointment

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