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Answers to Your Questions About Weight Loss Injections

Apr 26, 2023 Wellness and Healthy Living Share:

News about weight loss injections is everywhere these days. Whether it’s ads for medications, news stories about celebrities who’ve seen dramatic results, think-pieces from the media, or TikTok stories from influencers, it’s difficult to escape the conversation.

As semaglutide injections for weight loss have increased in popularity, confusion, myths, and questions have also increased.

At MedHelp, we want to help our patients understand the truth behind the headlines. We spoke with Dr. Ashley Tamucci at MedHelp Women’s and Wellness to answer some of the most common questions about these popular weight loss injections.

What is semaglutide?

While you may not have heard of semaglutide, you’ve probably heard it called by one of its brand names: Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro all feature semaglutide as the active ingredient. Dr. Tamucci says, “The FDA originally approved this medication to treat patients with Type 2 diabetes. It was approved for use as a weight loss medication in 2021 under the brand name Wegovy.”

For patients with Type 2 diabetes, semaglutide is an effective treatment that helps these patients manage their blood sugar. Although the medication is also approved for use in patients to lose weight and is an effective treatment, most insurance providers won’t cover this cost. Individuals without Type 2 diabetes who use semaglutide to lose weight must pay for this medication out-of-pocket. Semaglutide is given as a once-weekly injection and is only available with a doctor's prescription.

Why are weight loss injections all over my news feed?

Increased demand, supply shortages, and social media have caused semaglutide injections to explode in popularity. Dr. Tamucci says, “These injectables all started with Saxenda, which is really similar to semaglutide. Although it was approved by the FDA for the treatment of obesity, insurance providers wouldn’t cover the $1,000-a-month cost.”

“Newer drugs using semaglutide came out on the market, but insurance providers still wouldn’t cover the cost. To combat the high cost, drug companies began offering coupons for the medication. Suddenly, patients could get their initial doses of semaglutide for $25 with a doctor’s prescription. As more people began to try the medications and see results, they began sharing these results on social media, increasing the demand for the drug.”

Unfortunately, the popularity of semaglutide led to a shortage in supply for diabetics. This shortage was also newsworthy and increased public awareness. As a result, semaglutide injections have become the latest diet trend.

“There are always going to be diet trends. This is just the latest one in a long line of diet trends. Social media and the cheap initial cost have really caused these drugs to grow in popularity. And that’s exactly what the drug companies wanted to happen,” Tamucci explains.

How does semaglutide work?

Semaglutide is a GLP-1 drug that mimics a hormone your body produces naturally to prompt insulin production. Tamucci says, “Semaglutide works to increase insulin production in the pancreas, which lowers overall blood sugar. It can also work to suppress your appetite and reduce cravings.”

While patients with Type 2 diabetes can often manage their condition with lifestyle interventions, pharmaceutical support is often needed to prevent complications. Complications from uncontrolled blood sugar can include skin problems, nerve damage, vision loss, heart disease, and kidney disease.

Semaglutide also helps patients both with and without Type 2 diabetes to lose weight by slowing down the intestinal tract and reducing cravings. Your stomach empties more slowly, which allows you to feel full for longer. There’s also a psychological component to these medications which helps reduce cravings.

Dr. Tamucci says, “These medications really decrease appetite and cravings, but it’s still important for the individuals taking them to eat. People who take semaglutide often report reduced cravings for sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes. There’s an opportunity here to learn new habits that are sustained after coming off of the medication.”

What happens when you stop taking semaglutide?

Semaglutide is an effective treatment for as long as you take it. When you stop taking the medication for weight loss, you have the potential to gain back the weight you’ve lost unless you’ve established and can maintain new healthy habits.

Tamucci says, “Pharmaceutical companies would like you to believe that obesity is a disease and that you need to be on these medications for life. But obesity is an acquired condition related to lifestyle choices. Weight can also be impacted by hormonal changes such as menopause or thyroid conditions. But if you can change your habits while taking semaglutide injections and regulate your hormones, you won’t automatically gain the weight back when you stop.”

Can semaglutide play a role in healthy weight loss?

Semaglutide injections may seem like a magical shrinking potion. But Dr. Tamucci cautions patients against using these injections alone to lose weight. “I’m rooted in wellness and health, and I don’t like quick fixes for anything. However, I do think that semaglutide injections can play a role in healthy weight loss when used as a temporary measure,” she says.

“Semaglutide injections can support an individual as they establish healthy habits that they can maintain for life. As a physician, I can’t come home with a patient to help them lose weight through diet and exercise alone. This medication can provide the support they need to get them started,” Tamucci explains.

Semaglutide can also be compounded by pharmacies to minimize competition with diabetic patients, and it can also be designed to work more slowly and with fewer side effects. Tamucci reminds patients that rapid weight loss is almost never healthy weight loss.

“The way to sustainable weight loss isn’t magical and it definitely takes work. But you have to put in the work while taking the medication, or you’ll only experience temporary results that go away as soon as you stop. And you won’t be any healthier in the long run.”

The healthy habits you need are rooted in nutrition and movement. “If you’re taking medication to support weight loss, you still need to eat. Health doesn’t come by starving yourself or drinking your calories. I’m a big believer in a paleo, anti-inflammatory diet, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to eat that way. There are plenty of healthy ways to eat and support weight loss,” Tamucci explains.

Dieticians also play a valuable role in helping patients develop a healthy approach to food and nutrition. Through personalized consultations, they can help you fuel your body with real food in a way that makes sense for you and your lifestyle. We have partnered with Registered Dietitian, Jennifer Carter, to help patients achieve their goals.

Exercise is also key to any healthy approach to weight loss. While some may have a complicated relationship with exercise and have used it to punish themselves or to work off calories, Tamucci emphasizes the importance of finding enjoyment in movement and building strength and flexibility.

“If you’re taking a medication to support weight loss, you want to take it just long enough to see results while building these good habits that can serve you for the rest of your life. You can change your cravings, you can find enjoyment in moving your body, and you can sustain your weight loss and live a healthier life long after you stop taking the medication. Ultimately, the goal needs to be about living a healthier life – not just about a number on the scale,” Tamucci says.

At MedHelp, we’re dedicated to helping patients live whole, healthy lives. Our urgent care clinics are open seven days a week, and we also serve patients through relationship-based primary care. And our new Wellness and Preventive Medicine clinic targets the root cause of patients’ symptoms through a holistic approach to healthcare. Learn more about our services, or schedule an appointment today.

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