Ozempic, a medication developed to manage Type 2 diabetes, has been in the news a lot lately because of one of its signature side effects: drastic weight loss. Both Ozempic and Wegovy, Ozempic’s counterpart approved specifically for weight loss by the FDA, are brand names of a drug called semaglutide. Semaglutide is one of several drugs that mimics a crucial digestive hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1. It amplifies a process our bodies perform naturally.
GLP-1 is released in our intestines when we eat, and there are receptors for the hormone in cells all over the body. In the pancreas, GLP-1 promotes the production of insulin and suppresses the production of glucagon. This helps insulin-resistant bodies, like those with type 2 diabetes or obesity, manage blood sugar levels. In the stomach, GLP-1 slows gastric emptying, extending the feeling of being full. In the brain, GLP-1 suppresses appetite, which also promotes satiety and curbs hunger, so we eat less.
In late 2022, a rush to use Ozempic off-label for weight loss, likely prompted by its sudden rise in popularity on social media, led to a shortage of the drug for people who need it. But more drugs like semaglutide are currently in the process of being approved by the FDA to be prescribed for weight loss, likely signaling an end to the shortage and a promising new generation of medical treatment of obesity.
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