Recently, the news of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s 13kg weight loss transformation took over the internet by storm. In a Twitter post, Musk credited fasting and a diabetes drug called WEGOVY (Semaglutide 2.4mg Inj) for his “fit, ripped and healthy” physique. Since then words like Ozempic and Wegovy, both of which are injectable medications, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical giant, have been making rounds on the social media platform TikTok, becoming a viral trend. But regardless of how popular the drug has become, questions regarding its ability to induce weight loss, its safety and side effects remain. To help us get some clarity on the same, we at ETimes Lifestyle, spoke to leading endocrinologists.
Can diabetes drugs help one lose weight?
Dr.Anupam Biswas, Consultant- Endocrinology, Fortis Hospital, Noida, says yes! According to him, some antidiabetic agents can cause weight loss by stimulating satiety, reducing appetite, slowing the release of food from the stomach, increasing feeling of fullness post meals, modulating gut microbiota and by increasing glucose excretion leading to caloric loss.
Dr. Manjunath Malige, Lead Consultant – Endocrinology & Diabetes, Aster RV Hospital, is of the same opinion, adding that there are two classes of diabetes drugs that help patients lose weight in addition to improving blood sugar levels.
– Drugs like Dapagliflozin, empagliflozin and canagliflozin that reduce weight by making body lose calories (glucose) in the urine
– Drugs like Dulaglutide and Semaglutide that help reduce weight through various mechanisms but predominantly by suppressing appetite. These drugs are very safe when taken by appropriate diabetic patients.
Diabetes drugs and the treatment of obesity
The basic function of diabetes drugs is to manage type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, Dr. Biswas shares that some of the drugs have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of Obesity even in the absence of Diabetes, emphasizing on the fact that one must consult with their treating Physician or Endocrinologist based on other comorbid conditions.
Side effects of diabetic drugs
While Dr. Biswas is of the opinion that diabetes drugs are relatively safe in the management of chronic conditions and obesity, he says that some people may experience side effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea. In addition, these drugs should be avoided in patients with a prior history of pancreatitis, thyroid cancer or someone with a family history of thyroid cancer.
Dr. Malige notes that diabetes medications may increase the risk of urinary tract infections and genital fungal infections. Furthermore, drugs like Dulaglutide and Semaglutide can cause nausea and vomiting during the initial few days which eventually settle down.
Although diabetes drugs may help reduce weight and treat obesity, lifestyle interventions such as following a low calorie diet, increasing physical activity and exercise and behavioral modifications are still some of the safer ways to lose weight, according to the doctors.