Ozempic and Malnutrition: The Dietitian Weighs In

Ozempic and Malnutrition

Ozempic and Malnutrition: The Dietitian Weighs In

Ozempic is one of the proprietary names for the drug semaglutide. It’s a medication that has been proven to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar.

Although this drug has been successful, there are potential side effects associated with its use. One of the less common but most concerning is the risk of malnutrition due to the decrease in appetite.

Contrary to popular belief, malnutrition can occur in a person with a higher BMI; it’s not strictly related to someone’s weight. Malnutrition can occur due to an imbalance in the body’s vital nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. 

When a person is on Ozempic, their appetite may be suppressed, resulting in less food intake, which can lead to nutritional deficits. This is a greater risk when the individual taking the medication chooses food with a poor nutritional value. 

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a type of medication called a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, or GLP-1 agonist. 

It works by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin and by slowing down the rate at which food is absorbed in the stomach. This helps to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. 

The medication is administered through a once-weekly injection.

One of the Ozempic side effects is weight loss.

Ozempic for Weight Loss in Non-Diabetics

Semaglutide injection

Semaglutide, the active substance in Ozempic, has now been approved for weight loss in non-diabetics. The name for this new weight loss medication is Wegovy.\

The difference between Ozempic and Wegovy is that Wegovy is prescribed at a higher dose of semaglutide.

Semaglutude is very effective for weight loss. This is due to the fact that it works by decreasing the appetite, thereby reducing the amount of food that people eat.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition occurs when your body does not get enough of the nutrients it needs to function properly.

This can happen when you are not consuming enough of the right kinds of food, you don’t eat enough food, or when your body cannot absorb nutrients as it should.

Health Consequences of Malnutrition

Malnutrition can have serious health consequences, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness or low energy levels
  • Hair loss
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Poor concentration
  • Weak immune system
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Anemia due to iron deficiencies
  • Irritability
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Ozempic, be sure to talk to your doctor right away.

How Does Ozempic Cause Malnutrition?

There are a few ways that Ozempic can cause malnutrition.

Firstly, it can decrease appetite. While eating less can help with weight loss, eating too little can result in malnutrition. Or you could be eating enough calories but not getting enough nutrients from the food you’re choosing.

Very small meal

If you’re not eating enough calories and protein, it can result in energy-protein malnutrition. As a result, you might feel very tired and irritable and get sick more often.

You could also be at risk for micronutrient deficiencies, such as Vitamins A, C, and D, or iron. When you are lacking in these, it can cause a variety of health problems, including fatigue, skin problems, anemia, and more.

A common complaint among semaglutide users is hair loss, which can be the result of a deficiency of B vitamins. If the deficiency of this vitamin is severe, it can have more catastrophic consequences, like cognitive changes (changes in how your brain functions).

Being Overweight and Malnourished

It is possible to be overweight and malnourished at the same time.

If you have a rapid weight loss, you might not be eating enough to fuel your body adequately. One of the criteria for diagnosing malnutrition is weight loss and inadequate food intake. 

Of course, if you’re trying to lose weight, you want to eat less. But you must still eat enough calories and nutrients to keep your body functioning properly.

How to Prevent Malnutrition While Taking Ozempic?

If you’re taking Ozempic, it’s important to take steps to prevent malnutrition.

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet

Firstly, be sure to eat a diet that is rich in the essential nutrients. Because it’s likely that the total amount of food you are eating will decrease, ensure that most of what you consume is nutrient dense.

Well balanced diet

Eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet, Harvard healthy eating plate or the USDA my plate can give you some guidance.

My blog on the semaglutide diet plan will also give you essential tips for a good diet while taking Ozempic.

Keep in mind that if you are diabetic, you should also monitor your carbohydrate intake, especially if you take other medications for the management of diabetes.  

However, the best plan is one that is personalized for you. A registered dietitian or nutritionist is the most qualified person to guide you in this journey. It’s best if the dietitian is familiar with this type of medication. 

The doctor prescribing the medication can also guide you to resources to help you eat healthier.

Eat Enough

For some, eating enough while on Ozempic can be a struggle. If you’re looking to lose weight, a decrease in appetite will work to your benefit. However, you still want to eat at least 1,200 calories a day if you are a woman and 1,500 if you are a man. The number of calories might be larger if your BMI is higher or if you’re younger or physically active.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if the side effects are affecting your ability to eat enough. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Lastly, consider taking a multivitamin to help ensure that your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs.

My Expert Opinion

Ozempic can be a helpful medication for those struggling with type 2 diabetes. In addition, it can also promote weight loss, which is also beneficial in treating this disease. Thus, overall it’s a good medication.

We also have to recognize that many people are taking this medication for weight loss, either as Ozempic or in the form approved for weight loss—Wegovy.

While on these medications, it’s crucial to follow an eating pattern that will help you stay healthy. Include protein, healthy carbohydrates, plenty of vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats.

Avoid food that is high in fat and low in calories, like fast food. Limiting or avoiding this type of food is especially important because you will likely feel full with a small amount and will get very little nutrition.

Good luck on your journey!

Grab your free meal plan

If you want advice on what to eat from a Registered Dietitian, get your meal plan here.

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