Here's why drugs originally developed to treat diabetes are being used for weight loss.
If you have been on social media lately, you may have noticed that many people are singing the praises of using drugs designed to treat diabetes as a way to lose weight. Prescription medications like Ozempic, Wegovy, Trulicity, Mounjaro and others are being used off-label to aid weight loss efforts for people looking to shed a few quick pounds, as well as for those who have a lot of weight to lose.
Thanks to celebrities and social influencers posting about their weight loss successes using these drugs, interest and demand is skyrocketing. As of January 2023, there were over 157 million views for the hashtag #ozempicweightloss and over 65 million views for #wegovyweightloss on TikTok. Although there is less hype on Instagram, there are still tens of thousands of posts related to these hashtags.
Do these prescription diabetes medications work as well for weight loss as the social media universe would have you believe?
The main purpose of the drugs as originally developed is to boost insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Since one of their side effects is that they suppress appetite, the drugs may also help people lose weight. But although these drugs may help you lose weight while you take them, they may not be a long-term solution for weight loss. That's because once you stop taking the drug, your appetite returns. In many cases, so does the weight. Some people say they gain back more weight than they lost, and the weight comes back quickly, once they stop taking the drugs.
Should you consider these diabetes drugs as a way to lose weight?
These drugs shouldn't be used just because you want to drop a few quick pounds. They also shouldn't be used as a first line of defense when trying to lose any amount of weight if you don't have diabetes. But they may be a viable solution for someone who is overweight or obese, has been unsuccessful at other weight loss efforts, and who already has diabetes, prediabetes or insulin resistance — or who is at risk of developing these conditions due to their obesity.
If you are considering taking a diabetes drug like Ozempic or Wegovy for weight loss, discuss the following with your doctor:
- Side effects. Consider that the long-term side effects of these drugs may not be fully known yet since they are relatively new. If you are using the drugs just to look better rather than to control or prevent diabetes or insulin resistance, the potential risks may outweigh the benefits.
- What else you need to do to successfully lose weight. The medication may help suppress your appetite, but you'll still have to modify your diet and move more in order to lose weight. You'll also have to continue doing that to keep it off—and you may need to stay on the medication indefinitely.
After discussing the pros and cons with your doctor of using diabetes medications to help you lose weight, decide whether it's a good long-term solution for you. If it's not, it may be worth considering other weight loss options that are a better fit for you.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 19, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD