Semaglutide for Weight Loss in Non-Diabetics: The Answer to Weight Loss Struggles?
Semaglutide has become very popular in recent years as a potential solution for people struggling to lose weight.
This once-weekly injectable medication was developed to help regulate blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. However, it is now used as a weight loss treatment in non-diabetics.
This blog post will discuss semaglutide for weight loss in non-diabetics. We will also look at some of the studies conducted on this medication.
What is Semaglutide?
Semaglutide is a once-weekly injectable medication that was initially created to help control blood glucose levels in diabetics.
Recently, however, it has been studied and approved as a treatment for non-diabetics who have difficulty losing or maintaining weight.
Semaglutide works by helping the pancreas release enough insulin when sugar levels are high (typically after eating). Then the insulin helps move the sugar to the body cells that use it for energy or store it for later use.
This injection also slows down the movement of food through the stomach and may decrease appetite, which can result in weight loss.
Semaglutide also mimics a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake.
Thus, it is easy to see how medication can help reduce how much people eat.
How Effective Is Semaglutide?
Research suggests that semaglutide is an effective treatment for weight loss in overweight and obese people with or without diabetes.
The review of 8 studies found that compared to a placebo, semaglutide injections reduced:
- Body weight by 10.09% (10.54kg or 23.23 lbs)
- BMI by 3.71 kg/m2
- Waist circumference by 8.28 cm
It also found that participants taking the medication had better blood pressure, lipid profile, and reduced inflammation.
The most common side effects include:
- abdominal (stomach) pain
- abdominal distension,
- eructation (belching),
- low blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes,
- gastroenteritis (an intestinal infection) and
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The medication dose should be increased gradually over 16 to 20 weeks to 2.4 mg once weekly to reduce gastrointestinal side effects.
Last, this drug has warnings for inflammation of the pancreas, gallbladder issues, low blood sugar, acute kidney injury, increased heart rate, and suicidal behavior or thinking.
Do You Still Need to Diet and Exercise
Yes is the correct answer.
While semaglutide can be an effective tool for weight loss, it should always be used alongside a reduced-calorie diet and exercise to achieve optimal results.
A regular visit with a health coach or a registered dietitian (RDN) is encouraged while taking this medication. An RDN can also help you manage some of the potential side effects.
Ultimately, combining medication with lifestyle modifications will give you the best chance of achieving long-term success when losing or maintaining weight.
As you can see below, studies showed that many people regain the weight when stopping the medication. So, use the time you are on semaglutide to change the habits that have you at your current weight.
How long do the results of semaglutide last?
This drug is fairly new; therefore, more studies are necessary to determine how effective it is in the long term.
However, a large study, including 1051 participants, provides some answers. The study was 68 weeks long, but participants taking semaglutide were divided into two groups at week 20.
Those who continued taking the drug lost 17.4% of their initial body weight during the 68 weeks. In contrast, those stopping the drug at week 20 gradually regained their weight.
This is why changes in diet and physical activity are essential to create healthy habits that lead to long term success.
Can non diabetics take semaglutide?
Yes. In the United States, the FDA approved this injection for weight loss treatment in 2021. The approved dose was 2.4mg once weekly for adults with obesity or overweight and at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol).
FDA approved the use in addition to a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity.
Can semaglutide be taken with other over-the-counter or prescribed weight-loss products?
According to the FDA, semaglutide should not be combined with other products containing semaglutide and other GLP-1 receptor agonists.
It is also not recommended to take semaglutide with other products intended for weight loss, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or herbal products.
Who should not use semaglutide?
FDA discourages the use of this drug for people with the following conditions:
- Personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma
- Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type-2 (MEN 2)
Manufacturers also encourage you to discuss with your doctor if you have any other medical conditions, including if you:
- have or had problems with your pancreas or kidneys.
- have type 2 diabetes and a history of diabetic retinopathy.
- have or had depression, suicidal thoughts, or mental health issues.
- are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
- are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed.
Can you buy semaglutide over the counter?
No, semaglutide is not available for purchase over the counter. It requires a prescription from your doctor and must be administered by a healthcare professional such as a nurse or physician.
You should also closely follow their instructions regarding dosage and side effects during treatment.
My Expert Opinion
As a registered dietitian, the first treatment for weight loss should always be lifestyle modifications, including healthy and increased physical activity.
However, semaglutide can be used as an additional tool to help with weight loss in addition to those measures. It is important to remember that you should talk to your healthcare provider to see if this medication is right for you.
Also, be aware of how this drug is used. I see many facilities offering this drug along with other weight loss products, which is a contraindication. The Food and Drug Administration cautions against combining semaglutide with other weight-loss treatments, either prescription medications, over-the-counter remedies, or natural supplements.
If you decide to use semaglutide, you will also benefit from following a healthy eating plan and increasing your physical activity. This will increase your weight loss, provide muscle definition, change your body composition, and prevent you from regaining weight.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.