Ozempic and drugs like it are changing the way the world thinks about obesity. They’re showing that obesity may be more about biology than willpower.
The success of weight loss drugs like Ozempic demonstrates the role of chemistry in the weight of people. The primary chemist in the body is the brain. The brain regulates appetite. The brain makes it hard for a lot of people to lose weight and keep the weight off. Research which has been bolstered by the weight loss drugs suggests the brain is responsible for determining how much fat people carry.
This amount is rather like a dial’s setting. Our brains maintain this dial setting by regulating our food consumption. Weight loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro turn the dial down by essentially working on the brain to reduce our hunger and make us feel full more quickly, according to obesity researchers.
Researchers say the new dial setting will last while the patient takes the drug. Those who ate large amounts of food before taking the weight loss medications don’t feel as hungry and get full faster.
Americans And The Battle Against Obesity
The weight loss drugs and the insights they’ve provided into biology are important at an important point in our nation’s battle with obesity. Americans spend staggering amounts of money – billions of dollars – every year on trying to lose weight. Despite this, the amount of overweight Americans is increasing. In 1999, 31 percent of Americans were obese. Now, almost 42 percent of Americans are obese, including 20 percent of children.
Obese people have a higher chance of developing diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It’s costing $170 billion per year to treat these diseases. It’s been found that Wegovy can reduce cardiovascular risk. Mounjaro is currently under study for other health benefits.
Causes Of Obesity
The weight loss medications have dismissed some assumptions that have been long-held regarding health and weight.
The obesity problem results from old forces and new forces: the biology of humans shaped over thousands of years of struggling to find food, sedentary lifestyles, and the widespread abundance of affordable processed foods.
One big culprit are affordable processed foods like soda and potato chips. These foods are high in fat, salt, sugar and calories, and can be addicting. A 2019 study studied two groups of people. The two groups were fed the same number of calories. One group was fed processed foods like tater tots, cheeses and meats while the other group was fed unprocessed foods like fish, whole grains and vegetables. The group that was fed processed foods gained more weight.
Foods with a lot of calories can be extremely problematic for some people.
There are at least 1,500 genes which have been linked to weight. Some people have a genetic predisposition to gaining weight based on these genes. These genes commonly act in our brains.
Parts of our brains which control essential functions like heartbeat and breathing work together with the central nervous system and hormones to determine the amount of fat that the body wants to keep. Humans foraging for survival for thousands of years has shaped this system.
Our brains send us a hunger signal when we need food and our brains signal the sensation of fullness when we exceed or reach our dial setting. This is why when people lose weight while they’re sick, they become very hungry after getting better. This is why people end up feeling sick after overeating. This is why so many people regain weight after losing it.
Our dial setting is not fixed. It will change over our lifetime naturally. Babies end up losing body fat. Women gain pounds during menopause and pregnancy. Our bodies’ dial settings can move in small increments, with us losing or gaining a few pounds.
In those with obesity, though, the dial setting is thrown out of whack and the dial setting gets turned up.
Overeating is caused by obesity, not the reverse, according to researchers.
How The Drugs Work
The new weight loss medications are based on the GLP-1 hormone. This hormone is secreted mostly in our gut lining as a response to food, and in our brains. Researchers’ initial interest in GLP-1 was because it helps regulate our blood sugar. GLP-1 medications were first approved for the treatment of diabetes in 2005.
The only GLP-1 drug approved for weight loss by the FDA is Wegovy. Ozempic, in a lower dose of its active ingredient, semaglutide, the same active ingredient in Wegovy, has been approved for diabetes. Mounjaro is expected to be soon approved for weight loss by the FDA. It is already approved for treatment of Type 2 diabetes and it mimics GIP hormone action as well as GLP-1 action.
These drugs essentially lower our dial setting via activation of GLP-1 receptors in our brains which regulate appetite and weight. The medications also act on neurons in our brains which affect impulse control and reward sensations.
Once patients reach new dial settings, some appetite will return – they aren’t feeling overfed anymore – but the drugs keep them at their new dial setting. When patients stop taking the drugs, the new dial setting won’t hold anymore, and the people will regain weight.
Researchers say this dial setting concept is difficult to definitively prove. The makers of the medications say the medications increase satiety and reduce hunger while people take them.
Researchers seek to determine what makes the dial setting go way, way up for certain people, causing obesity.
The Drugs Aren’t Without Their Side Effects, Though
While the new weight loss drugs have been massively successful, they are not without their side effects.
Ozempic has been linked with particularly severe side effects, including gallbladder issues and stomach paralysis.
Ozempic has been linked by multiple scientific studies with an increased risk of gallbladder issues:
- A 2016 study found that the use of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogues is associated with a higher risk of gallbladder disease. Ozempic is a GLP-1 analogue. GLP-1 analogues are also known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.
- A 2017 study found that the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists is associated with a higher risk of developing cholelithiasis, or gallstones.
- A 2020 meta-analysis found that GLP-1 receptor agonists “significantly” increase the risk of developing cholelithiasis.
- A 2022 meta-analysis found that GLP-1 receptor agonists are associated with a higher risk of gallbladder diseases, especially when used for weight loss, for longer durations and at higher doses.
In addition, over 13,000 adverse events have been reported regarding Ozempic to the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System (FAERS). These events, as of May 7, 2023, included 86 cases of cholelithiasis and 40 cases of cholecystitis. These events were considered serious adverse events. Four patients had to discontinue use of Ozempic due to four acute gallbladder events.
In addition, cholelithiasis was reported in Ozempic clinical trials, according to Ozempic’s label. The condition was seen in 1.5 percent of patients given 0.5 mg of Ozempic and 0.4 percent of patients given 1 mg of Ozempic. The condition was not seen in patients given placebos in the clinical trials.
In addition, it has been recently reported by CNN that doctors think two women developed severe gastroparesis, or stomach paralysis, after they took Ozempic. The symptoms of stomach paralysis include abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, nausea and vomiting.
Call us today for a free consultation if you have taken Ozempic, Saxenda, Rybelsus, Mounjaro or Wegovy and developed a gallbladder issue or stomach paralysis. We won’t charge you any fee until and unless we recover financial compensation for you. Call us today. Click here to read more.