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Healthy Eating and Exercise

What to Know about Weight Loss Drugs

Most of us feel a constant pressure to lose weight, both internally and through outside voices. From social media and advertising to celebrity culture, our perceptions of health and beauty have become warped. Unsurprisingly this has led to an increase in eating disorders, especially among teenagers.

While weight loss should never be motivated by pleasing others, there are plenty of good reasons to shed a few pounds; including better blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and a healthier heart. Over the last few years, pharmaceutical companies have released a variety of new drugs to aid Americans in their weight-loss goals. If you’re interested in trying one, it’s important to understand what they are, how they work, and what the effects may be.

Here's everything to know.

When Should You Use Weight Loss Drugs?

According to FDA guidelines, weight-loss medication is recommended if you have already attempted to lose weight through healthy lifestyle habits without results and have one or more of the following conditions:   

  • A BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30+, which indicates obesity.   
  • A BMI of 25+ (overweight) along with at least one health problem related to obesity, like high blood pressure or diabetes. 
  • Failure to lose at least 5% of your body weight in three to six months through healthy lifestyle changes alone.

Remember, everyone’s body is different, and genetics can impact how easy or difficult weight loss will be. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new medication.

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Weight Loss Drugs and Their Effectiveness 

The overall weight loss efficiency of these medications varies depending on the specific drug, individual factors, and treatment compliance. On average, weight loss medications can help individuals lose 5-10% of their body weight when used as part of a comprehensive weight loss program that includes lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise.

Here are the most commonly-prescribed weight loss medications according to the Obesity Medicine Association

  • Semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic) Semaglutide, sold as Wegovy for weight loss and Ozempic for type 2 diabetes, is given as an injection to adults and some children who are overweight. Studies have found that it can lead to significant weight reduction, with some people losing up to 15% or more of their body weight. While Wegovy is specifically approved for weight loss, Ozempic is approved for diabetes, although some doctors may still prescribe it for weight loss.
  • Tirzepatide (Zepbound, Mounjaro) An injection for adults with obesity (Zepbound) and for adults with Type 2 Diabetes (Mounjaro). It helps reduce appetite when used with diet and exercise. In tests, some participants lost about 10% of their body weight while using it.
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda, Victoza) An injection for adults with obesity (Saxenda) and for adults with Type 2 Diabetes (Victoza). A daily injection that helps you feel full faster. It has been shown to help some individuals lose around 5-10% of their body weight.
  • Phentermine (Adipex, Suprenza) An oral medication that is commonly used for short-term weight loss, helping individuals lose about 5% or more of their body weight. 
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia) A combination of pills that reduces appetite and helps with weight loss, typically around 5-10% of body weight. The topiramate component is historically used as antiseizure agent. 
  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave) another pill treatment for chronic weight management in obese adults. Studies have demonstrated a loss of roughly 5-10% of body weight. Bupropion is typically used as an antidepressant. 
  • Setmelanotide (Imcivree) — An injectable medication for obesity due to specific rare genetic disorders, confirmed by genetic testing in adults and pediatric patients of six years of age or older.
  • Orlistat (Xenical and Alli) A capsule that blocks fat absorption. This treatment has been shown to help some individuals lose around 5% of their body weight.
  • Cellulose and citric acid Hydrogel (Plenity) A capsule that promotes fullness and might increase satiety to help a person manage their weight. Patients saw an average weight loss of 9%.

Risks and Side Effects

Although these drugs are FDA-approved, it’s still important to understand the general risks associated with weight loss drugs. Some of the more common adverse reactions are:

  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms
  • Dizziness, especially when standing up quickly
  • Dry mouth due to reduced saliva production
  • Changes in taste
  • Liver damage or abnormal liver function tests
  • Negative effects on kidney function or kidney stones
  • Mood swings, irritability, or depression
  • Allergic reactions such as rash, itching, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Interactions with other medications that can cause adverse effects or reduced drug efficiency.

Before starting any weight loss medication talk to your doctor to assist you in choosing the medication that is right for you. 

If you use a weight loss drug and begin experiencing negative side effects, talk to your doctor right away. 

Planning Ahead

Remember, losing weight can be complex. If you’re feeling unsatisfied with your body, be sure you’re making changes for the right reasons.

While weight loss drugs can be a valuable tool in achieving your health goals, it is crucial to understand that individual responses may vary. These medications work best when combined with a balanced diet and consistent exercise regimen. Your care provider can help you determine the right plan for growing healthy, whether that includes weight loss drugs or not. 

Your Health and AltaMed

Our dedicated team of health care professionals offer comprehensive support to assist you in your weight loss journey safely and effectively. If you are unsure where to start or need guidance on crafting the right plan for you, connect with us by clicking here or calling (888) 499-9303.

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What to Know about Weight Loss Drugs