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Medically reviewed by
Constance Tambakis Odom, MD graduated in 1987 with her Doctorate of Medicine from the New York Medical College, and was an Anesthesiologist Resident from 1988 to 1991 at the Brookdale Medical Center PGY II (CA-I)-PGY IV (CA-III). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology since 1998 and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 2002. Constance Odom, MD is affiliated with the American Medical Association, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiology, Georgia Society of Anesthesiology, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, North Carolina Society of Anesthesiology, and Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia.
While many people see a few extra pounds as a cosmetic concern, the reality is that millions of people in America suffer health consequences due to being overweight or obese. From 2017 to 2020 alone, the rate of obesity among individuals in the United States rapidly increased from 30.5% to 41.9%. With no clear solution to decrease the number of overweight adults, this high rate of prevalence is likely to continue an upward climb. Those who experience severe health-related problems due to their weight; however, often require medical intervention to get their weight and ailments under control. From type 2 diabetes to heart disease and high blood pressure, these complications can have serious consequences when they are not properly managed and controlled. In some cases, doctors opt to prescribe medications to aid these patients in losing weight quickly. One of these options is known as Wegovy.
Wegovy is the brand name of a medication known as semaglutide. Semaglutides fall under the class of medications labeled as antihyperglycemics or glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Other popular brand names of this type of medicine include Ozempic and Rybelsus. This medication must be prescribed by a doctor and while it aids patients in losing weight, it was originally intended for the treatment of those with Type 2 diabetes. In 2021; however, the medication was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the purpose of chronic weight management. This was the first treatment for weight loss to receive this level of approval since 2014.
Because Wegovy was initially intended for use by those with Type 2 diabetes, its mechanism of action revolves around mimicking the natural response of the body in healthy individuals. When an individual has Type 2 diabetes, their bodies struggle to transform sugar into energy. This is because the pancreas fails to produce an adequate level of insulin and the cells do not respond properly to the amount of insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for moving sugar from the blood into cells where it can be used. Without proper amounts of this hormone, the sugar remains within the bloodstream.
When Wegovy enters the body, its ingredients bind to certain receptors in the body which allows them to mimic the performance of GLP-1 receptors. These receptors are responsible for regulating one's blood sugar and this helps to increase the production of insulin within the body. Because of the way that Wegovy and other semaglutides function, they hugely impact the patient's appetite. The specific mechanism of action regarding Wegovy in weight loss is still not completely understood; however, it works to eliminate cravings for unhealthy foods, improves metabolism and decreases one's appetite by helping them to feel fuller for longer.
While Wegovy helps with Type 2 diabetes and weight loss, those who are prescribed the medication must first meet certain requirements. The biggest requirement is that patients must have a BMI (Body Mass Index) score of 30 (meaning that they are clinically obese) if they do not have a health related condition. Those with obesity related health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, must have a BMI score of 27 to be prescribed Wegovy. In addition to this, Wegovy is not recommended for patients under the age of 18 years old or those who have Type 1 diabetes. This is because there are big differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and each form requires its own treatment type.
Additionally, Wegovy may cause harm to the fetus if taken by a pregnant woman and because it may enter breast milk, it is also not recommended for those who are breastfeeding. If you are prescribed Wegovy and become pregnant, speak to your doctor immediately to discuss whether it is safe to continue to take this medication. Other health conditions can prevent patients from being prescribed Wegovy for weight loss, such as a history of eating disorders, kidney or pancreas disorders, or a family history of certain cancers.
Those who have allergies to certain medications or have had serious reactions to other semaglutides should also avoid taking Wegovy.
Those who are prescribed Wegovy for weight loss will see maximum results when they take the medication and implement lifestyle changes. Doctors recommend that patients on Wegovy follow a reduced-calorie diet and participate in regular exercise regimes. Despite this, certain foods may also affect the way that Wegovy functions. Because of this, patients taking the medication should carefully follow their doctor's instructions to prevent complications. Some of the most common foods that doctors advise patients to avoid while taking Wegovy include:
Carbonated beverages, such as seltzers or sodas
Other sugary drinks (juices, sweetened teas, smoothies, etc.)
Foods with high levels of saturated fats (butter, cheese, cured meats, sausage, bacon)
Sugary foods (cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, ice cream, yogurt, sweetened dried fruits)
Fast food l(burgers, french fries, pizza, fried chicken)
Highly processed foods and carbohydrates (bread, breakfast cereals, cheese, hot dogs, sausage)
Alcoholic beverages (alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate rapidly while on Wegovy, which can be dangerous)
Those who are prescribed Wegovy to regulate their blood sugar or for weight loss should take their doctor's advice into consideration when it comes to diet. In some cases, doctors may advise patients to avoid additional foods and beverages while taking this medication. Overall, individuals who are taking this medication should focus on a diet that is full of fresh vegetables and lean meats. Following this balanced diet will allow patients to achieve their maximum weight loss potential, while fueling their body with the nutrients that they need to remain healthy.
In most instances, patients are advised to eat smaller, more frequent meals while taking this medication. Wegovy can be taken with or without food; however, many people experience nausea after taking the medication. For this reason, taking it with bland foods like crackers, soup or gelatin can be helpful in minimizing this side effect.
Before making any significant changes to your diet, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.
When a patient is prescribed any form of semaglutides, like Wegovy, it is done after a doctor has carefully evaluated their existing health conditions. This is crucial to ensure that there will be no major side effects from taking it and that the benefits of taking the medication will outweigh the risks. Despite this, there is a risk of side effects when taking Wegovy as with any medication. The majority of these side effects are mild, including:
Pain or redness around the injection site
Mild side effects are most prevalent following a change in dosage or when patients are starting the medication for the first time. As the body adjusts, these side effects typically lessen within a few days. If they seem persistent or are particularly bothersome, be sure to mention them at your next doctor's appointment.
In some cases, severe side effects may result. Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
Severe pain in the abdomen or back
Increased heart rate
Change in vision
Low blood sugar
Clay colored stools
Sudden change in behavior or mood
Confusion or extreme disorientation
While patients who have a family history of certain cancers are advised to avoid taking Wegovy, it is important to note that those who take the medication are at an increased risk of developing thyroid tumors or cancer. A warning regarding this possibility is featured on the label of this medication and should be taken seriously. If your need for weight loss or blood sugar regulation outweighs your risk of forming these tumors or thyroid cancer, your doctor will still want to warn you about this possibility. Because of this risk, those who take Wegovy for any reason should closely monitor any lumps, swelling, difficulties swallowing or breathing along with any other symptom that appears to affect the neck or throat area.
Wegovy can be a very effective tool for those who have BMI ratings between 27-30 and need to lose and maintain weight. Likewise, it is helpful for those with Type 2 diabetes in regulating their blood sugar levels to reduce certain complications. Those who take the medication for weight loss experience the highest levels of success when they pair the weekly Wegovy injections of 2.4mg with lifestyle changes like a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise.
When patients follow these recommended changes, they can expect to lose approximately 15% of their body weight over the course of a 68-week period. This study showed that while the weight loss effects associated with Wegovy can sometimes be seen within the first 4 weeks of taking the medication, in many cases, the effects may not be seen until the patient has been taking it for a much longer period of time. The level of effectiveness also varied depending on how well patients abided by the reduced calorie diet restrictions and how many implemented increased physical activity into their lifestyles.
In order to determine if Wegovy is the solution you need to lose weight and keep the weight off, it is important to speak with a doctor. There are a number of serious risks associated with Wegovy that make it an unsafe option for people with certain pre-existing conditions. That being said, those who wish to take Wegovy must also understand that it is not a quick solution to weight loss woes. Losing weight and keeping it off requires a permanent change in lifestyle. This means that patients must be willing to avoid certain foods while taking Wegovy, reduce their overall caloric intake and commit to being more physically active each day.
Those who are willing to make these changes must also have a BMI that meets the requirements set forth by healthcare providers and the manufacturers of Wegovy. If you think that Wegovy might be a helpful addition to your current regime and you meet these requirements, be sure to mention your interest in the medication to your doctor.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.