The landscape of weight loss solutions is vast and varied, from diet and exercise regimens to surgical procedures. In recent years, a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists – known as Ozempic, Wegovy, Mounjaro and other brand names – has gained significant attention in the field of diabetes and weight management. Let’s dive deep into what GLP-1 medications are and how they function to aid weight loss.

What is GLP-1?

Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a naturally occurring incretin hormone produced in the intestines. It plays several roles:

  1. Regulating Blood Sugar: After eating, GLP-1 is released and works to increase insulin secretion from the pancreas. Insulin helps cells take up sugar from the blood.
  2. Slowing Down Gastric Emptying: GLP-1 slows the rate at which the stomach empties, leading to a sensation of fullness and reduced food intake.
  3. Suppressing Appetite: It acts on the brain to reduce appetite, making one feel less hungry.

What are GLP-1 Medications?

GLP-1 receptor agonists, often referred to as GLP-1 medications, are synthetic compounds designed to mimic the actions of the natural GLP-1 hormone. Because the natural hormone is rapidly broken down in the body, these medications are modified to resist degradation, allowing for longer action.

Some of the commonly prescribed GLP-1 medications include:

  • Liraglutide (Victoza, Saxenda)
  • Semaglutide (Ozempic, Rybelsus)
  • Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon)
  • Dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • Tirzepatide (Mounjaro)

While many of these were initially approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, their benefits in weight management led to additional approvals and off-label uses for weight loss.

How Do GLP-1 Medications Promote Weight Loss?

  1. Appetite Reduction: By mimicking the natural hormone’s action, GLP-1 medications act on the brain, reducing the feeling of hunger. When one feels less hungry, they’re likely to consume fewer calories, leading to weight loss.
  2. Slowed Gastric Emptying: With slower stomach emptying, there’s a prolonged sensation of fullness after meals. This can prevent overeating and promote satiety.
  3. Direct Action on Fat Cells: Some studies suggest that GLP-1 medications may have a direct effect on adipose (fat) tissue, influencing fat storage and utilization.

Safety and Side Effects

Like all medications, GLP-1 receptor agonists come with potential side effects:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are among the most common side effects, especially when starting the medication. For many, these side effects diminish over time.
  • Pancreatitis Risk: There have been concerns about an increased risk of pancreatitis, although the evidence is not conclusive.
  • Thyroid Tumors: In animal studies, some GLP-1 medications have been linked to a specific type of thyroid tumor. It’s not yet clear if this risk translates to humans.

It’s essential to have an open conversation with a licensed healthcare provider about the potential risks and benefits of these medications.

GLP-1 medications represent a promising advancement in the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. By harnessing the power of a naturally occurring hormone, these drugs can aid in weight loss by targeting multiple pathways, from appetite suppression to gastric emptying. As with any medication, understanding their mechanisms and potential risks is crucial for making informed decisions about health and well-being. Book an appointment with one of our telehealth specialists today to explore if GLP-1 medication is right for you.