Many people use Ozempic for weight loss, but what are the risks? And who should really take the drug?
Many factors influence a person's weight, including of course what you eat and how much exercise you do, but also things outside of your control such as your environment,Geneticand ethnicity, according to whichNational Institute of Health(NIH). If lifestyle changes aren't helping you reach your weight-loss goals, you might be tempted to try another remedy: drugs like the much-discussed Ozempic.
We've spoken to experts on what to expect when taking Ozempic for weight loss (e.g. GI discomfort in the first few days), who might be suitable for this drug and more.
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How Ozempic works
Ozempic, which is injected once a week, is a diabetes medication. Helps improve blood sugar for people withTyp 2 Diabetes, vonOzempicpage on the internet.
Ozempic belongs to a class of drugs known as incretin mimics, which help the pancreas release appropriate levels of insulin when blood sugar levels are highNational Library of Medicine(NLM).
The drug can also lead to weight loss — up to 14 pounds, according to the Ozempic website.
"Ozempic mimics one of the hormones made in the body," it saysMir Ali, MD, bariatric surgeon and medical director of the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
This hormone is known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which slows digestion and reduces the amount of nutrients absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Ozempic contains semaglutide, which mimics this hormone.
The use of Ozempic for weight loss is widespread, but it's also considered an "off-label" use, at least for now, since the drug isn't FDA-approved for weight loss. "Ozempic is not a weight-loss drug," the drug's website states.
However, another drug, Wegovy, which contains a higher amount of the same active ingredient (semaglutide) and is manufactured by the same company, was discontinued in June 2021 by theFDA.
Why Ozempic can lead to weight loss
Semaglutide, the active substance in Ozempic, is effective in people with type 2 diabetes because it helps lower blood sugar. But two additional effects of Ozempic explain why it can help with weight loss:
- Food stays in the stomach longer. Semaglutide works to slow gastric emptying, says Dr. There.
- It also affects your brain. Ozempic "acts centrally in the brain to suppress appetite," says Dr. There.
When you take Ozempic, you won't feel as hungry because you're not getting hunger signals from your brain - and you'll also feel fuller longer due to the slowing down of digestion.
"It's multifactorial," he saysMitchell Roslin, MD, chief of bariatric surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City — meaning Ozempic works in different ways on different parts of the body.
And when it comes to weight, Semaglutide makes the difference. "It has been shown to be more effective than many other weight loss medications available," says Dr. There.
One study looked at the effects of taking semaglutide weekly in obese or overweight adultsobesity. Study participants received injections of either 1.7 or 2.4 milligrams; The maximum recommended dose of Ozempic (the lowest-dose semaglutide drug) is 2 milligrams per weekNovo Nordisk, which manufactures Wegovy and Ozempic. According to results from September 2022, study participants lost 5.9% of their body weight after three months and 10.9% after six monthsopen JAMA network.
In a Novo Nordisk-funded, double-blind study of nearly 2,000 obese adults, some participants received a placebo drug while others received a weekly injection of 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide for 68 weeks (nearly a year and a half). . Both also received lifestyle interventions, but people taking the drug lost 14.9% of their body weight, while those taking the placebo lost just 2.4% of their weight, according to the March 2021 resultsThe New English Journal of Medicine.
Benefits of taking Ozempic for weight loss
- The most common side effects are temporary for many.
Disadvantages of taking Ozempic for weight loss
- Not always covered by insurance
- You may gain weight again if you stop taking the medicine.
- Not approved by the FDA
Ozempic side effects
When people first start taking Ozempic, they often experience a range of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms. These include nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or sometimes the opposite effect of constipation, says Dr. There.
These symptoms tend to "disappear over time," says Dr. There. To reduce symptoms, doctors usually start patients on a low dose and let them "get used to the symptoms," he says, by slowly increasing the dose over a few months.
It's important to note that virtually every drug has the potential for side effects. "Only in science fiction can things be quite effective and people don't have [side effects]," says Dr. Roslin. The question often arises as to whether the results of taking the drug outweigh these undesirable effects.
What foods should be avoided on the Ozempic diet?
Ozempic is a drug, not a diet. Therefore, you don't necessarily need to change your diet while taking this drug. "There's really no food that's going to bother," says Dr. There. And you can take the drug with or without food.
But on the other hand, what you eat matters when your goal is to lose weight. "The healthier you eat, the more effective it will be," says Dr. There.
For example, drinking alcohol can affect your blood sugar, he notes — and the extra carbs and calories can also stunt weight loss, he says.
In a few words? "You want to use a combination of a tool [like Ozempic] with lifestyle changes," says Dr. Roslin, because: "It's a tool - it doesn't make Doritos any healthier."
Risks of Ozempic for weight loss
Ozempic was first approved by the FDA as a diabetes drug in 2017, so it has been prescribed for several years.
"It's relatively new for weight loss, but it's been around for diabetes for a number of years," says Dr. BTW that it doesn't seem to lower blood sugar levels much. He says he is not aware of any serious complications from the medication. "Of course, everyone reacts differently to medication," he notes.
According to Novo Nordisk, certain people should avoid taking the drug — these include people with:
- Family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndrome Type 2 (MEN 2)
- pancreatitis or history thereof
The drug should not be used during pregnancy or a few months before conception.
There's also a risk of losing muscle instead of just fat, so it's important to work with a professional to ensure you're losing weight the healthy way.
According to Novo Nordisk, there may be other, less common risks — like complications from diabetic retinopathy. Ozempic also caused thyroid tumors (including cancerous ones) in animal studies. And while this cannot be extended to humans, other research – published February 2023 in diabetes treatment – found that similar drugs (liraglutide, exenatide and dulaglutide) increase the risk of thyroid cancer in humans. Semaglutide (Ozempic) was not included in the study.
How about Face of Ozempic?
As excitement surrounding Ozempic grew, the media began reporting on an anecdotal side effect of the drug dubbed "Ozempic Face." AccordinglyThe New York Times newspaper, that's the term for how thin and exhausted people can look afterwardsrapid weight lossbecause they lost facial fat.
This "facial aging" isn't a side effect you'll find on the drug's label, but you'll find plenty of fodder about itTick Thank you.
Who should take Ozempic for weight loss?
As a reminder, Ozempic is currently only FDA-approved for the treatment of diabetes. It's not approved for weight loss — but Wegovy, a drug with a higher dosage of semaglutide, is.
In the bariatric community, semaglutide medications are being considered for people withBody-Mass-Index(BMI) of more than 30 is considered obese, says Dr. Ali or a BMI greater than 27 with at least one weight-related disease (eg, diabetes or high blood pressure). "I get patients with a BMI lower than that and I have to tell them that this is considered off-label use of the drug," he says.
Wegovy is also approved for people who are overweight and have weight-related health issues (think:high cholesterolorhigh pressure), according to the FDA.
What happens when you stop taking Ozempic?
If you're taking a semaglutide drug to lose weight, remember that you may regain weight after you stop taking the drug. "If you stop taking these drugs, you're going to experience a relapse," says Dr. Roslin.
One study looked at what happened after people stopped taking semaglutide 2.4 milligrams per week and removed structured lifestyle interventions for 68 weeks. After one year, “participants regained two-thirds of their previous weight loss,” according to the August 2022 study in Diabetes, obesity and metabolism.
This can seem discouraging. But consider this: They regained weight, but less than those who originally received a placebo. People who were in the placebo arm of the study — who received a placebo drug as well as structured lifestyle interventions — essentially returned to their baseline weight after a year without a placebo or lifestyle interventions. But those taking the drug were 5.6% underweight.
How much is Ozempic?
Insurers don't cover the cost of using Ozempic off-label, meaning you may have to pay out of pocket to use the drug for weight loss.
A 90-day supply of Ozempic (excluding insurance) averages $2,663 eachGutRx, which compares the cost of prescription drugs at different pharmacies.
Ozempic vs. Other Drugs
How it works
FDA approved for weight loss?
Weight loss estimates
This diabetes drug helps lower blood sugar and also causes slower stomach emptying. Combined with sending a signal to the brain, this helps people feel less hungry and feel full for longer.
Up to 14.9% of body weight
Wegovy works in the same way as Ozempic, but at a higher dose.
About 15 percent of body weight perwaywebsite
This prescription drug helps regulate blood sugar and slows gastric emptying. It can be used by overweight or obese adults and obese childrenSaxendapage on the internet.
5 percent or more weight
Trulicy is a type 2 diabetes treatment that may help lower blood sugar. When you take it, food slows your stomach, limits the absorption of blood sugar from your liver, and also helps your pancreas release insulin. Like Victoza and Ozempic, it is not a weight loss treatment, but some people can lose weight.
Weight changes range from less than a pound to as much as 10 pounds
This drug is a type 2 diabetes treatment that lowers AIC and blood sugar. Like Saxenda, it works by slowing how quickly food leaves the stomach after eating, helping the pancreas produce more insulin, and stopping the liver from producing too much sugar. Some people lose weight while taking this drug.
People taking the drug may lose 5% or more of their body weight
Studies suggest that semaglutide is effective for weight loss. But drugs have limits. "Eating less will obviously help you, but it won't tell you what to eat," Dr. There. "The goal is to get these patients on a healthy path, and the drug is helping them on that path."
In other words, you needmake lifestyle changesalso if you want to avoidgain weight again you lostwhile taking the drug.
How much weight will I lose with Ozempic? About a third of people who take Ozempic for weight loss will lose 10% or more of their body weight. Most people should expect to lose at least 5% of their starting body weight when using Ozempic for weight loss.How do I get the best weight loss results with Ozempic? ›
How can I maximise my body weight loss on Ozempic? You can assist Ozempic by lowering your overall calorie intake, moving your body where possible and limiting your alcohol consumption.Can I lose weight with Ozempic without dieting? ›
Although not officially a weight loss drug, research suggests that people who take Ozempic may lose modest amounts of weight while on the medication.What foods should be avoided in Ozempic diet? ›
- Fried, greasy foods. Many of the most common side effects of Ozempic are gastrointestinal—things like nausea, bloating, and gas. ...
- Sugary foods and drinks. ...
- Refined carbohydrates. ...
- High-glycemic vegetables. ...
Will Ozempic or Wegovy reduce belly fat? The answer appears to be yes. That Novo Nordisk-funded study of almost 2,000 overweight or obese adults without diabetes also found their visceral fat — the type that accumulates in the belly — was reduced from baseline with semaglutide, along with their total fat mass.How quickly do you start losing weight on Ozempic? ›
How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight On Ozempic? Patients who start taking Ozempic can start noticing significant weight loss after several weeks. According to clinical trials, adults lost 9 to 12 pounds on average within 56 weeks after starting Ozempic treatment.Where is the best place to take Ozempic for weight loss? ›
Where should you inject Ozempic? According to Ozempic's manufacturer, you should inject your dose under the skin (subcutaneously) on your stomach, thigh, or upper arm. Avoid injecting it into damaged, swollen, or scarred areas of your skin. Don't inject Ozempic into your muscle or vein.What foods should I eat while on Ozempic? ›
For those on the drug, Rubin recommends increasing your intake of lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, soy and low-fat dairy. If you have no appetite or nausea, try low-calorie protein drinks, she adds.Does Ozempic speed up your metabolism? ›
Ozempic® (semaglutide): It's one of several GLP-1 medications that are best known for their ability to help patients with type 2 diabetes control blood sugar—but the drug is also effective in helping those with obesity or overweight improve their metabolic health and lose weight.What does Ozempic do to your face? ›
“Ozempic face” is a term for common side effects of the type 2 diabetes medication semaglutide (Ozempic). It can cause sagging and aging of facial skin. A doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications or facial fillers to treat these effects.
The active ingredient in Ozempic is semaglutide, which works by inducing satiety. This feeling of being satisfied or “full”, suppresses appetite. This is why it works for weight loss. Semaglutide also helps the pancreas produce insulin, which is how it helps manage type 2 diabetes.Does Ozempic help lose weight if not diabetic? ›
Can you take Ozempic for weight loss only? Yes, and people do. However, there are also FDA-approved weight loss medications for people who do not have diabetes, such as Wegovy. If you do not have diabetes but are interested in a weight loss medication, talk with your doctor who can offer you alternatives.What is the biggest side effect of Ozempic? ›
Semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy, Rybelsus) can cause side effects that some people are unable to tolerate. Following dosing guidelines can help manage these side effects. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most common semaglutide side effects.What happens if you eat sugar on Ozempic? ›
High fat foods or sugary foods
Ozempic can cause nausea and vomiting if taken after eating foods high in fat or sugar. It is recommended that you take Ozempic before meals, rather than after, to minimise any potential side effects from eating high-fat or high-sugar foods.
Lean protein sources from eggs, low-fat cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, tofu, and beans are all excellent ways to bulk up on protein while eating healthy if you take Ozempic.Can Ozempic cause rapid weight loss? ›
The prescription drug Ozempic helps people with diabetes control their blood sugar. But its wild popularity is due to a side effect: rapid weight loss. That's made it hard to find in some areas.Do you gain weight back after stopping Ozempic? ›
You Will Regain Weight
Because people stop feeling full and their food cravings return when they stop Ozempic, weight gain is likely, Kushner says.
Although hair loss is not a listed side effect of Ozempic, clinical trials did show that 3 per cent of Wegovy users and 6 per cent of similar brand Mounjaro users experienced alopecia, a skin disease that can cause patchy bald spots or complete hair loss.Does Ozempic affect your mood? ›
Can Ozempic cause mood swings? In rare cases, the use of Ozempic may cause anxiety and mood swings, irritability, shakiness, and confusion. However, when you take other medications along with Ozempic, it may escalate anxiety or mood change.How do you feel the first week of Ozempic? ›
Nausea. Nausea was the most common side effect of Ozempic noted in clinical studies . This is often described as an unsettled feeling in your stomach — or an upset stomach where you feel like you may need to vomit, but it may not always lead to vomiting.
It's possible to have nausea when taking Ozempic. Nausea was the most common side effect reported by people taking the drug in clinical studies. For most people, the nausea was mild and temporary. You're more likely to have nausea when you first start Ozempic treatment or after your doctor increases your dose.Will health insurance cover Ozempic for weight loss? ›
Does insurance cover Ozempic? Often, Ozempic is not covered by insurance when prescribed specifically for weight loss alone. However, it may be covered as a treatment for type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, for pre-diabetes.Why is Ozempic not covered by insurance? ›
That said, when Ozempic is prescribed off-label for weight loss, it is often not covered by insurance. Why? Because the Affordable Care Act doesn't mandate that health insurers cover obesity or overweight medications or surgeries.Will my doctor prescribe Ozempic for weight loss? ›
Currently, Ozempic is only approved for use in people with type 2 diabetes. However, doctors may prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss. For this purpose, they may prescribe the drug to someone who does not have type 2 diabetes.Can I drink coffee on Ozempic? ›
Avoiding alcohol and caffeine with Ozempic®
Caffeine may also cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, possibly increasing the risk for hypoglycemia when taking Ozempic® at the same time.
During treatment with this medicine, you may feel sick (nausea) or be sick (vomiting), or have diarrhoea. These side effects can cause dehydration (loss of fluids). It is important that you drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.What are the tips and tricks when taking Ozempic? ›
You should inject Ozempic once a week — on the same day of the week, every week. It doesn't make a big difference whether you take it in the morning or at night. It's possible to change the day of the week you inject Ozempic. The general rule is to avoid injecting it with less than 2 days in between shots.Is Ozempic hard on the body? ›
Drugs such as Ozempic have caused new or worsening kidney disease, including kidney failure, in some people. If you become dehydrated from other side effects of Ozempic, such as vomiting or diarrhea, this could also cause kidney problems. Your doctor may monitor your kidney health closely during your Ozempic treatment.Is Kim Kardashian on Ozempic? ›
Celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Simon Ourian, friend and doctor of the Kardashians, told The Hollywood Reporter he's seeing patients come in with saggy skin and "deflated" butts after losing weight too quickly from the popular new drug Ozempic. (No member of the Kardashian family has publically said they use Ozempic.)Do the Kardashians use Ozempic? ›
Khloe Kardashian And These Celebrities Have Admitted To Using Ozempic For Weight Loss.
Ozempic may prompt equal muscle-to-fat loss, says Attia. Meaning: even though you see the number on the scale drop, your fat-to-muscle percentage is skyrocketing. In an Instagram story, Attia notes that some muscle loss is expected in weight loss patients, but drugs like Ozempic can exacerbate the issue.Does Ozempic make you tired? ›
Tiredness may be a side effect of Ozempic, but it doesn't seem to be common. Fatigue is listed by the FDA as a potential side effect of Ozempic with it affecting more than 0.4% of people.What are the dangers of taking Ozempic? ›
- inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis). ...
- changes in vision. ...
- low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). ...
- kidney problems (kidney failure). ...
- serious allergic reactions. ...
- gallbladder problems.
You should not use Ozempic if you or an immediate family member has had thyroid cancer in the past, or if you have a rare form of cancer called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. If you're taking Ozempic and have symptoms of a thyroid tumor, contact your doctor right away.Who should not use Ozempic? ›
Do not use Ozempic® if you or any of your family have ever had MTC, or if you have an endocrine system condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2).What celebrities are using Ozempic to lose weight? ›
Stars like Chelsea Handler, Kyle Richards and more have spoken about the diet trend. Handler, for her part, admitted during a January 2023 episode of the “Call Her Daddy” podcast that she unknowingly took the medication.What happens after you stop taking Ozempic? ›
Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy, can be a powerful medication for treating diabetes and obesity. Semaglutide must be taken consistently to see long-term weight loss effects. As soon as someone stops taking the drug, their body fat and former appetite tend to return.Can Ozempic damage kidneys? ›
Since the half-life of Ozempic is about seven days6, our patient's renal function recovered after four weeks. Luckily, the kidney damage was reversible. Physicians should be aware of such potential rare complications when prescribing GLP-1 agonists and closely monitor renal function after initiation.Can I drink alcohol while taking Ozempic? ›
It is never advised to binge drink, especially while taking diabetes medications that may cause low blood sugar like Ozempic. However, when in moderation (1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men), drinking alcohol is okay for most people who take Ozempic.How long does it take Ozempic to start working? ›
Bottom Line. Your blood sugar levels should start to fully decline within the first week after you start using Ozempic (semaglutide) at your regular maintenance dose. However, the full effects can take 8 weeks or longer, as this is a long-acting medication that is injected only once per week.
Ozempic interactions with supplements
Taking an alpha-lipoic acid supplement in combination with Ozempic may make you more likely to develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you're taking the supplement, talk with your doctor before you begin treatment with Ozempic.
Yes, you can eat carbs while taking Ozempic. In fact, there are no foods that are strictly prohibited while on this medication. However, it's important to follow a diet and exercise program recommended by your provider when taking Ozempic.Can Ozempic make you lose weight fast? ›
In general, more weight loss and better blood glucose control are seen with higher Ozempic doses. During a 40-week study, people receiving the 1 mg Ozempic dose lost an average of 13 lbs. And people receiving the 2 mg Ozempic dose lost an average of 15 lbs.Does Ozempic start working right away? ›
Ozempic starts working within the first week of beginning your maintenance dose. Your blood sugar levels will start to decline during this time. Reaching the steady state can take about four to five weeks of once-a-week Ozempic doses.How much weight can I lose in a month on semaglutide? ›
We did have patients who lost a moderate amount but we also had patients losing over 15 pounds and even over 20 pounds in the first month!Can I take Ozempic for weight loss if I'm not diabetic? ›
Ideally, you should not take Ozempic if you do not have diabetes, or if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant. Ozempic may cause serious (but rare) side effects, including thyroid C-cell tumors and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC).Is Ozempic better at night or morning? ›
It doesn't make a big difference whether you take it in the morning or at night. It's possible to change the day of the week you inject Ozempic. The general rule is to avoid injecting it with less than 2 days in between shots. But it's best to talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist first.How do you feel when you first start taking Ozempic? ›
Nausea was the most common side effect reported by people taking the drug in clinical studies. For most people, the nausea was mild and temporary. You're more likely to have nausea when you first start Ozempic treatment or after your doctor increases your dose.What happens when you overeat on Ozempic? ›
If you take too much Ozempic, you could develop severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In the event of an overdose, call your healthcare provider right away and monitor for signs and symptoms of low blood sugar using a glucometer. Call 911 if you have severe symptoms that are not improving with consuming carbohydrates.What foods to avoid while taking semaglutide? ›
Fried foods and fatty foods, such as fast food, and foods high in sugar tend to be the toughest for your body to digest and the most likely to cause nausea while taking a GLP-1 medication.