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The Ozempic Craze – Miracle Weight Loss Solution or Risky Medicine?

Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan, and Sharon Osbourne have been raving about semaglutide for weight loss, and with good reason. Marketed under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus, this medication is skyrocketing in popularity, making the semaglutide

Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan, and Sharon Osbourne have been raving about semaglutide for weight loss, and with good reason. Marketed under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus, this medication is skyrocketing in popularity, making the semaglutide industry a multi-billion dollar market almost overnight. The frenzy to get semaglutide has even led to a global shortage.

Semaglutide is a medication that belongs to the class of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Approved by the FDA for type 2 diabetes management, the weekly injectable Ozempic led to rapid weight loss in diabetes patients, prompting it to be prescribed “off label” for the treatment of obesity. Rybelsus tablets are approved to lower blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. The Wegovy injectable is a more potent form of this drug and is the only FDA-approved semiglutide for weight loss.

Semaglutide mimics the effects of GLP-1, a naturally occurring hormone that prompts the body to produce more insulin and improve glucose levels. It may also provide a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In higher amounts, it interacts with the brain to suppress appetite and create a feeling of fullness. Essentially, it reduces hunger and keeps us fuller longer, so we eat less.

Chris M., a Civil Engineering Tech from Egg Harbor Township, is one of the many people who have benefited from Wegovy. After gaining weight due to some of her mental health medications, Chris went to an endocrinologist for help. At 5’8” and 195 pounds, Chris had high blood pressure and a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMI) over 30, considered obese, making her eligible for Wegovy. However, before she could begin the medication, she had to follow a three-month weight-loss program recommended by a nutritionist. At the end of three months, she had lost only five pounds.

Wegovy made her efforts much easier. In just under a year, Chris has lost 48 pounds, and she plans to stay on it until she reaches her goal of 139 pounds. The only side effects she experienced were loss of appetite and nausea in the first few weeks. However, she says, “I would get nauseous after I ate. I learned fast that it was from the portion sizes I was having. As soon as I cut those down, that went away.” In addition to Wegovy, she adopted healthier habits such as portion control, reduced calorie intake, and increased physical activity, all of which contributed to her success. She stopped eating out of boredom and learned to chew her food slowly and taste the flavors of food. When asked if she feels better after losing weight, she responds, “So much!

Physically, it helped me with all the inflammation I had in my body, and I feel great. I don’t look at it as a diet anymore. It really is a better way to eat.”

According to endocrinologist Dr. Samar Bursheh, owner and medical director of Nutriamed in Egg Harbor Township, semaglutide is not a magic weight-loss bullet or a free pass to eat whatever we want and still lose weight. The FDA approved the medication for weight loss “in addition to diet and exercise.” Those are keywords, meaning it is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

“It works best with lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Bursheh, passionate about helping her patients with “lifestyle medicine” at Nutriamed. In addition to medical consultations, Nutriamed offers fitness programs, nutrition counseling, and healthy cooking classes.

Dr. Bursheh recommends a three to six-month customized program to learn about healthy lifestyle changes before beginning this medication. She says many people are willing to do the work but need this kickstart.

“If you are not on medication, your body will try to get you back to your baseline line weight because it will think you are starving. These medications help the body understand that you don’t need to fight weight loss.” For those who don’t make changes, “It will work initially, but then they plateau three to six months after starting.” Plus, without physical activity and a nutritious diet, patients may lose muscle along with fat. The ultimate goal is more than losing weight. It is achieving better health and a fit and functional body.

She explains, “You must be mentally ready to utilize all the tools we have to help you lose weight.

This medication is only a tool.

If you don’t have the proper foundation, the tool will stop working. It is no miracle drug, but it is a very efficient drug.”

The long-term effects of semaglutide are still unknown. However, we do know the long-term consequences of diabetes and obesity, which are heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer.

Semaglutide injections are indicated for people with a BMI of 28 or more with comorbidities or a BMI of 30 or more with no comorbidities. Like any drug, it should be used appropriately and under medical supervision.

This medication is not a magic potion to slim down for summer or lose 15 pounds for your daughter’s wedding. “However,” says Dr. Bursheh, “For those with diabetes or obesity, the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Semaglutide is only approved for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy. The typical dose for weight loss is 2.4 milligrams, administered weekly as subcutaneous (under the skin) self-injections. The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment. Your doctor will start you on a low dose first to decrease your risk of stomach/abdominal side effects and gradually increase your dose.

Not recommended for everyone, semaglutide may cause side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and constipation. If you experience abdominal pain, nausea, minimal urine, thirst, dizziness, pale skin, or any mental/mood changes, contact your doctor immediately. Before using semaglutide, read your pharmacist’s medication guide and instructions. With a price tag of more than $1,000 per month, it is very expensive.

However, if you qualify, your insurance may cover it.

Finally, the incredible demand for semaglutide has led to dubious marketing, questionable online sales, and failures to address the underlying causes of disease. If you are interested in semaglutide, visit a respected medical professional and use a reputable pharmacy.

When it comes to any medications, we should do our research and consider the risks and benefits. With the input of medical and other health professionals, we need to make the best choice for us.