“Game-changer”. “Quick-fix” “Miracle cure”. You’ve undoubtedly heard these words thrown around when it comes to weight loss. And chances are, you’ve heard them in relation to Semaglutide, a new(ish) and much-hyped weight loss drug said to reduce appetite and cravings, too. But here’s why you should think twice before copying celebrities and using it.
Usually sold under its brand names Wegovy and Ozempic, this controversial drug has made waves Stateside and been dubbed the “skinny shot” with household name celebs (like Elon Musk and Chelsea Handler to name a few) admitting they’ve used it to fast-track their weight loss and many more rumoured to be doing the same.
But unlike other dubious weight loss drugs that have dominated the market, Semaglutide isn’t a pill you pop at meal times; rather it’s an injection that you self-administer once a week in your thighs, abdomen or upper arms with a pre-filled pen.
And now? UK Chemist Boots will be prescribing and dispensing the appetite-suppressing drug to overweight and obese people, making it more accessible than ever. Most worrying of all: All you have to do to get your hands on it is fill out a consultation form and undergo an assessment by a clinician.
It’s a simple process, but that’s not a good thing, and Semaglutide becoming a first-line weight loss tool is a serious concern. Here, we’re exploring why you might want to think twice about using Semaglutide to shed those pounds.
But first things first, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how Semaglutide actually works, shall we?
Semaglutide: How it works
Semaglutide is what’s known as GLP-1 agonist (That’s glucagon-like-peptide 1, for the uninitiated.). This simply means it stimulates the GLP-1 receptor in the brain and triggers hormones known as “incretins”.
In turn, this triggers a whole bunch of processes that are favourable for weight loss. Namely, it causes the stomach to digest and empty food more slowly and, at the same time, reduces your appetite, meaning you’re likely to eat less than usual.
One of the most important things you should know about Semaglutide? It wasn’t created as a weight loss drug at all; it’s actually a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes and is used to regulate blood sugar levels, another process that can be beneficial when it comes to losing weight.
What about research? Well, in clinical trials, Semaglutide reduced body weight by around 15% over 68 weeks in people with BMIs of 27 or higher. Those results are certainly impressive, but like most prescription medicines, Semaglutide has a long list of side effects that include many of the usual culprits, like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, constipation, and diarrhoea.
Some people also claim that taking Semaglutide puts them off their food; another reason you may be inclined to eat less. Online, some users have reported that the drug alters the taste of many foods (yep, even their favourites) to the point they are inedible.
Pretty gutting, right?
Semaglutide: What you should consider
It probably won’t improve your relationship with food
On the face of it, stocking up on Semaglutide at your local Boots might seem like a no-brainer if you struggle to manage your weight. But here’s the thing: a weekly jab won’t address the habits that have contributed to your weight gain.
It won’t improve your relationship with food or encourage you to eat for long-term health, happiness, and longevity either. And some experts believe it could even compound disordered eating habits.
Food, after all, isn’t simply there to fuel our bodies or achieve a certain aesthetic; it’s about taste and enjoyment too. A drug that suppresses your appetite and potentially alters the way your food tastes, threatens to take that enjoyment away.
Rather than learning how to eat for satiety by filling up on foods rich in fibre and protein, you’re simply using a drug to suppress your body’s natural – and completely normal – urge to eat. That’s pretty harmful if you ask us.
You’ll need to address your exercise and eating habits for it to be effective long-term
Sure, Semaglutide may jump-start your weight loss journey. The National Institute For Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reports that, when tested, patients lost an average of 12% of their body weight within the first year. But according to research, users may regain the weight once they come off it, leaving you right back where you started.
Consider that further proof that weight loss requires a whole-hearted, holistic approach, one centred on eating better and moving more, rather than self-medicating.
There’s a pill for every ill, but trust us, focusing on healthier food and movement habits, and ideally working with a trained professional who can create a personalised plan that optimises your overall health, is a much better shout.
There’s so much a weight loss drug can’t give you: like an understanding of why you eat the way you do, for one, and an education on good nutrition, for another.
You could be contributing to a shortage
Remember what we said earlier about Semaglutide being a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes? Well, its increasing popularity as a weight loss tool has sparked concern that resources of the drug will be depleted for those who need it most: diabetics.
In fact, the US faced a nationwide Ozempic shortage last year following record demand for the drug. That means, choosing whether to use Semaglutide isn’t just a health conundrum, but a moral one as well.
Type 2 diabetics need the drug to manage their condition as high blood sugars can contribute to comorbidities and be life-threatening. In short? Semaglutide should be prioritised as a medical intervention, rather than a high-street weight loss tool.
Studies are still ongoing
In terms of weight loss, Semaglutide is still a relatively new tool. That means research into its efficacy and safety for people who aren’t diabetic is limited.
Sure, some of the early trials show promising results but bear in mind, there is still so much we don’t know about the risks it poses to long-term health and weight management. And get this: the drug’s effect on people who aren’t overweight or obese hasn’t even been studied.
Add to that, there are only two years of safety data. That’s because Semaglutide isn’t recommended as a weight loss tool beyond this period. In terms of weight loss, that means you’re right back to square one when you come off it as a study showed two-thirds of people regain their weight loss within the first year. And when weight loss is as simple as a ‘magic injection’ you probably won’t make the dietary, lifestyle or mindset changes needed to keep your weight loss going.
As if that wasn’t concerning enough, Semaglutide simply isn’t good for your gut, and given that good gut health is hugely important for your metabolism – the rate at which your body expends energy and burns calories – using it as a long-term weight loss tool really doesn’t make sense.
Whether it’s a celebrity shouting about their recent weight loss or an online prescription service espousing the benefits of weight loss drugs, you’ll likely hear many people claiming that Semaglutide is the latest innovation in a long line of “miracle” cures. And you might be tempted to rush to your local chemist to stock up.
But don’t let the hype fool you, because when it comes to weight loss, there is no quick fix. Sure, there are many tools that can help you hit that ‘magic’ number on the scale a little quicker, but steady, sustainable weight loss is the result of small, steady, empowering changes, rather than so-called ‘wonder’ drugs.