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GLP-1 for Weight Loss: Everything You Need to Know

GLP-1 for weight loss - The Dearing Clinic


The use of GLP-1 for weight loss has become increasingly popular in recent years. GLP-1 medications effectively promote weight loss by managing blood sugar levels and regulating appetite and metabolism, especially when coupled with a healthy diet and exercise.


It’s no secret that the use of GLP-1 medications have grown in popularity as a potential solution for weight loss in recent years. It’s one of the reasons why you hear about using people who have successfully used Wegovy and Ozempic for weight loss practically around every corner. 


But if you’re looking to lose weight and struggling to get the scale to budge, you may find yourself curious about how GLP-1 for weight loss works.


So, let’s take an in-depth look at GLP-1 and discuss what it is, review how it works, and uncover just how effective it is for weight loss. (We’ll also review a few additional benefits of GLP-1 that may surprise you!)


What Is GLP-1?

GLP-1 stands for glucagon-like peptide-1, and it’s a peptide hormone that’s naturally produced in your gut, specifically by special cells in the lining of your intestine. These cells release GLP-1 into your bloodstream, where it can travel throughout your body.


The primary role of GLP-1 is to regulate your glucose metabolism and appetite. 


When the food you eat reaches your intestine, the cells in your gut release GLP-1 in response, and this then stimulates your pancreas to produce insulin and limits your body’s release of glucagon, a hormone that raises your blood sugar levels. 


As a result, you’re able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which prevents the spikes and crashes known to cause weight gain.


But it’s important to note that the amount of GLP-1 produced by your gut depends on the nutrients that exist within your digestive tract as well as hormonal signals from other organs in your body, meaning the foods you eat and your gut health have a direct impact on the amount of weight-regulating GLP-1 your body produces!


How Does GLP-1 Promote Weight Loss?

Now let’s take a look at how GLP-1 for weight loss actually works and what GLP-1 does to your body.


In addition to its ability to support healthy blood sugar levels, GLP-1 also affects your brain by reducing your appetite and increasing your feelings of satiety. 


By signaling to your brain that your stomach is full, GLP-1 helps to control the amount of food you eat, which helps to reduce the amount of calories you consume. It’s this functional ability that makes the use of GLP-1 medications a promising option for people struggling with obesity and/or weight management.


GLP-1 has also been shown to promote weight loss by increasing the amount of calories you burn. It does this by stimulating the conversion of stored fat into usable energy, which naturally reduces body fat


This effect is particularly beneficial if you have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes because it helps to improve insulin sensitivity and your body’s ability to control your blood sugar.


What Are GLP-1 Medications?

GLP-1 medications (also known as GLP-1 drugs) are a class of drugs that were created to mimic the effects of the natural GLP-1 your gut produces. They work by activating the same GLP-1 receptors as natural GLP-1. As a result, they’re able to produce similar responses in your body. 


There are several different types of GLP-1 medications currently on the market. And each of these medications differ in the way they’re formulated, dosed, and administered. The two main types of GLP-1 medications are:


1. GLP-1 agonists. These GLP-1 medications directly stimulate certain pathways in your body and are typically used to aid in cellular communication and processes. 


GLP-1 agonists are typically given as injections once or twice each day, depending on the specific medication. Some examples of GLP-1 agonists include exenatide, liraglutide, and dulaglutide.


2. GLP-1 receptor agonist. This medication, semaglutide, is a recently approved weight loss shot that’s administered once each week. Because it provides the convenience of a once-weekly dosing regimen, it’s an attractive option for those who prefer less frequent weight loss injections. 


Semaglutide works by targeting your body’s GLP-1 receptors and therefore mimics the effects of the GLP-1 naturally produced in your gut. You may be more familiar with semaglutide though its popular brand names Ozempic and Wegovy.


How Do GLP-1 Drugs Work?

As we reviewed above, different GLP-1 drugs have differing mechanisms of action. You now know that when GLP-1 medications are administered, they bind to GLP-1 receptors in target tissues and activate specific signaling pathways. And this activation promotes a decreased appetite, increased satiety (or feelings of fullness), and improved metabolism of glucose. But that’s not all.


GLP-1 medications have also been shown to slow down the movement of food through your stomach and small intestine. This effect delays your gastric emptying, further supporting a prolonged sense of fullness and reduced hunger. By slowing down your gut’s nutrient absorption, GLP-1 medications help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent after-meal blood sugar spikes.


Research on GLP-1 for Weight Loss

So, now that you know how GLP-1 drugs are supposed to work, let’s take a look at what the science actually shows in terms of results. 


The research on GLP-1 for weight loss is extensive. And, fortunately, GLP-1 medications have been shown to be significantly effective in promoting weight loss. 


Clinical trials have consistently shown that people using GLP-1 medications experience greater weight loss compared to those receiving a placebo or standard treatment. 


The amount of weight loss varies depending on factors such as their starting weight, their adherence to the treatment protocol, and the individual response to the medication, but the general outcome from using GLP-1 medications is a total weight reduction of 5 to 10 percent, when the medication is used in conjunction with certain lifestyle modifications, such as improve diet and regular exercise. 


Additionally, numerous studies have revealed that using GLP-1 medications are generally considered safe to use and support their use as an effective therapy for those struggling to lose weight.


Other Benefits of GLP-1 Medications

In addition to using GLP-1 for weight loss, GLP-1 medications offer other potential benefits worth knowing about. These include reducing the risk of cardiovascular-related events and supporting the health of those with diabetes by providing blood sugar support.


GLP-1 medications have also been found to preserve pancreatic beta-cell function in people with type 2 diabetes This is also an important benefit for those who have prediabetes, as research has shown that beta-cell dysfunction is a key component in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes, and that by the time you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you’ve already lost an estimated 50 percent of your pancreatic beta-cell function. Given this information, it’s reasonable to surmise that preserving your beta-cells can aid in preventing type 2 diabetes.


GLP-1 medications have been shown to lower blood sugar levels by promoting your insulin secretion and reducing your glucagon release. By normalizing glycemic control, these medications help people with diabetes achieve their target blood sugar levels and even reduce their need for additional anti-diabetic medications.


Another great benefit of GLP-1 medications is that they’ve been shown to support heart health. Studies have shown that they can reduce the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke, in people with cardiovascular disease or at high risk of cardiovascular disease. 


This additional benefit makes GLP-1 medications a valuable therapeutic option for people with diabetes and/or cardiovascular concerns.


Eligibility and Special Considerations

GLP-1 medications are typically prescribed for people with a BMI of 30 or above, or those with a BMI of 27 or above who also have obesity-related comorbidities (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and more). 


That said, eligibility criteria varies depending on the specific medication and local prescribing guidelines. As a result, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if GLP-1 medications are suitable for your specific needs and circumstances.


Additionally, there are a few special considerations to take into account when you’re considering using GLP-1 medications. For example, if you have a history of pancreatitis or thyroid tumors, you may not be eligible for treatment with certain GLP-1 medications. 

Make sure to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions and medications to your healthcare provider to ensure that using GLP-1 medications is safe and appropriate for your specific circumstances.


Potential Side Effects and Risks of Using GLP-1 Medications

Just as with any medication, GLP-1 medications are associated with potential side effects and risks. The most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people also find that using semaglutide for weight loss makes them feel tired for the first few days (similar to how starting a new diet with calorie restriction can leave you feeling less energized at the beginning).


Fortunately, these side effects are typically mild, temporary, and often subside as your body adjusts to the medication. Furthermore, they can be minimized by starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it over time based on your personal tolerance.


Another commonly discussed risk is the potential for decreased muscle mass, a side effect that can be mitigated by implementing regular strength training and ensuring adequate protein intake.


Other potential side effects include hypoglycemia, gastroparesis, and small bowel obstruction, particularly for those with diabetes. Fortunately, it’s been shown to be about 1 percent risk, making it very rare. 


It’s worth noting that GLP-1 medications can lead to other severe side effects, such as pancreatitis or thyroid tumors. These adverse events are very rare but should be considered when you’re starting GLP-1 medications, particularly if you have a history of pancreatic or thyroid disorders. 


Scheduling regular check-ups with your healthcare provider is essential anytime you start a new medication, and it will help to ensure early detection and management of any potential complications or unwanted side effects.


How to Get Started with GLP-1 for Weight Loss

If you feel beginning GLP-1 therapy is right for you, it’s important to find the right healthcare provider to help you choose the most suitable GLP-1 medication for your preferences, goals, and personal circumstances regarding potential side effects.


For example, here at The Dearing Clinic in Nashville, achieving sustainable weight loss and avoiding rebound weight gain is a priority in our treatment. Therefore, we advise our patients about the importance of starting out at a lower dose and increasing dosages at a slower rate. Here’s why: Starting out at a dose that’s too high or increasing too fast can shock your metabolism and cause you to regain weight after your treatment protocol is over. But pacing yourself can help to avoid this.


Just as we do here at The Dearing Clinic, a reputable provider will be able to help guide you through the selection process and educate you on your potential outcome by using GLP-1 for weight loss. 


Additionally, they should provide guidance on how to combine your GLP-1 medications with a healthy diet and regular exercise to get the most out of your treatment. Remember, a truly comprehensive weight loss strategy should include following a healthy and nutrient-rich diet, engaging in regular exercise, and prioritizing quality sleep and stress management. 


Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’ve connected with your insurance company to understand if your treatment is covered, whether upfront or via reimbursement. 


It’s important to understand the process and commitment before beginning this therapy in order to take advantage of all the GLP-1 benefits available to you.


If you have additional questions about how GLP-1 for weight loss works, desire to know more about GLP-1 medications, or want to understand more about receiving this peptide therapy at The Dearing Clinic, contact us to learn more

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