Wegovy: a game-changing anti-obesity medication

Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

As the global obesity epidemic continues to unfold, the quest for effective and sustainable weight loss solutions remains at the forefront of many healthcare discussions. News stations, magazines, and internet influencers alike have been abuzz about a class of medications called “glucagon-like-peptide-1 agonists”, or GLP-1s, for short.

Originally developed for type 2 diabetes, there are now GLP-1s that are FDA-approved specifically for weight management. One such solution that has made significant waves in recent years is Wegovy (semaglutide), a GLP-1 medication that promises to revolutionize the treatment of obesity. 

In this article, we'll explore what Wegovy is, how it works, its benefits and potential side effects, and whether it's the right choice for you.

What is Wegovy?

Wegovy is an injectable prescription GLP-1 medication developed by Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company specializing in diabetes and obesity treatments. Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Wegovy, was initially designed as a treatment for type 2 diabetes under the brand name Ozempic. However, after observing its potential for weight loss, Novo Nordisk developed a separate, higher-dose formulation specifically for obesity management. 

How Does Wegovy Work?

Wegovy is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, which means it mimics the action of a natural hormone called GLP-1 in your body. GLP-1 has various roles, including regulating blood sugar levels and appetite. When you take Wegovy, it binds to GLP-1 receptors in your brain, increasing feelings of fullness and satiety while decreasing hunger. 

The result? While taking a GLP-1 medication like Wegovy, you're more likely to eat less, have fewer cravings, consume fewer calories, and ultimately lose weight. (Learn more about what it feels like to be on a GLP-1 medication.)

Benefits of Wegovy

Clinical trials have shown promising results for Wegovy in terms of weight loss and overall health improvement. In trials, patients with obesity and without type 2 diabetes taking Wegovy alongside a fitness and nutrition plan saw upwards of 15% total body weight loss on average—with some individuals losing up to 33%. 

More research is needed to understand the full benefits of semaglutide and other GLP-1 medications. So far, studies have proposed evidence for GLP-1 medications having multiple positive biological effects, “such as reducing neuroinflammation, promoting nerve growth, improving heart function, suppressing appetite, delaying gastric emptying, regulating blood lipid metabolism and reducing fat deposition.” 

In the STEP trials, for example, participants taking Wegovy demonstrated improvements in blood pressure, waist circumference, and A1C.

Potential Side Effects

While Wegovy has demonstrated remarkable results, it's essential to be aware of potential side effects. Common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation, which usually improve over time as the body adjusts to the medication.

In rare cases, patients may experience more severe side effects like gallbladder issues, kidney problems, or an increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when used in combination with other diabetes medications.

This is why it’s essential to discuss Wegovy with your Clinician before starting, and why we include registered dietitians as part of our program. 

To minimize side effects, we recommend going up on the dose slowly and based on your weight loss progress. Your Clinician will take into account your side effects and progress on each dose. We also recommend staying hydrated and getting enough protein.

How long do most people need to stay on Wegovy?

Wegovy is intended (and so far appears safe) for long-term use. Obesity is a chronic condition, similar to hypertension and heart disease, and, like them, it can require long-term medication maintenance to manage it.  

One misunderstanding about GLP-1 medications—and, indeed, anti-obesity medications more broadly— is that they are a “quick fix”, that you can use them to lose weight quickly and then stop taking them. But many people see the best results when taking these medications indefinitely—just like medications for blood pressure and other chronic conditions.

Wegovy and other weight management medications usually make it easier to implement lifestyle changes, like improving your nutrition and fitness routines. Just like with stopping a diet or exercise routine, you may notice fluctuations in your weight when discontinuing the medicine.

Since the goal of our program is steady weight loss that is sustainable in the long term, most Sequence members choose to continue on a maintenance dose of their medication. However, some people are able to come off the medications without regaining weight. When the time comes, your weight maintenance plan will be individualized—based on your goals, comfort level, medical history, and more. 

Is Wegovy Right for You?

GLP-1 medications are not appropriate for everyone. Wegovy, in particular, is specifically approved for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (classified as having obesity) or a BMI of 27 or higher with at least one weight-related health condition like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

Before starting Wegovy, it's crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider about its potential risks and benefits. They can help determine if Wegovy is the right choice for you based on your medical history, current health status, and weight management goals.

Wegovy is an exciting development in the world of obesity treatments. While it's not a “magic pill”, its potential for significant weight loss and health improvement is undeniable. By consulting with your healthcare provider and considering your personal circumstances, you can make an informed decision about whether Wegovy is the right choice for your weight loss journey.

See if you qualify for the Sequence program. Or, read more Wegovy FAQs

Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

About the Author

Dr. Spencer Nadolsky is a lipid specialist certified with the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He is the Medical Director of joinsequence.com.

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