Weight Loss Drugs – everything you need to know

Did you know?


Weight loss medications tend to work via one or more of these mechanisms:

  • reducing appetite, making you feel fuller, so you eat fewer calories
  • reducing the absorption of nutrients, such as fat, making you take in fewer calories
  • increasing metabolism, making you burn more calories

When paired with other lifestyle changes and taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional, these drugs may offer an effective way to lower your weight.

Important to emphasize that these medications should be combined with a balanced weight loss diet and exercise regime.

On their own they’re not a helpful long-term solution for obesity and may lead to weight regain over time.

They also have many possible side effects, some of which can be serious.

Common Side effects

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Infections
  • Indigestion

Uncommon, severe side effects

  • Gastroparesis – stomach paralysis
  • Kidney problems
  • Thyroid C-cell tumours
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Low blood sugar
  • Suicidal thoughts

Before 2012, there were few approved weight loss medications

The top medications at that time were:

  • Appetite suppressants
  • Lipase inhibitors – reduction in fat digestion

Today the advent of Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists), has attracted explosive media attention.

GLP-1 agonists are currently considered the most effective anti-obesity medications and are considered safe for long-term use.

GLP-1 receptor agonists like

  • Wegovy
  • Saxenda
  • Zepbound

Determining if you are a candidate for weight loss medications begins with BMI.

Most medications are prescribed for someone with:

  • a BMI of 30 or greater
  • a BMI of 27 or greater if the person has weight-related health conditions.

Most weight loss medications are approved for adults only,

Semaglutide, liraglutide, and orlistat are now approved for children aged 12 and older.

All weight loss medications are contraindicated for pregnancy.

Some weight loss medications have been on the market for many years, and new ones emerge frequently

BUT here’s the thing – prescription weight loss medications, including GLP-1 agonists, may be effective for some people. But other lifestyle changes are still necessary for long-term success.

Do they work long-term is the question everyone is asking the answer at the moment looks like only if you keep taking the drug.

But a Danish Study from Feb this year states “Our study offers new hope as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination.” –  Signe Sørensen Torekov

The study also demonstrated that those just taking the GLP-1 increased in weight again.

If you regard these medications as a tool to help you change to a healthier lifestyle and diet, they’re like any other tool, if you use it the right way, it works. If not, it doesn’t work.”

What are the long-term side effects?

The answer is no one knows as the drugs were released before any long-term trials were completed

The longest trial of 7 years was looking at their impact on T2D not weight loss by monitoring HbA1c levels, not appetite, stomach function, etc

Many health experts are saying the drugs are:

  • A kick start or jump start
  • People need a little win
  • Little helper
  • Adjunct to other therapies – diet and exercise

The elephant in the room that still needs addressing is the type of food

These drugs effect the quantity of food ingested, which is absolutely part of the problem but quality ie. what these foods contain ie chemicals and what they don’t contain ie. nutrients has not been addressed.

Experts from many fields of health are adamant that until the food industry get the same ‘treatment ‘ as the tobacco industry obesity (and lifestyle disease) will continue climbing.

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