Do weight loss medications like the recently popularized Wegovy and Mounjaro really work?
And more importantly, are they safe?
Historically, there have been many attempts to make a wonder drug that helps us lose weight quickly and painlessly. And many of those products have been pretty bad. Either they have been dangerous, they didn't work so well, or they had bad side effects.
But the good news is that we are upon a new generation of weight loss pills that are safer and some work almost as well as gastric bypass surgery.
But even this new class of medications needs to be used very judiciously.
The big takeaway is that if you just take the drug and don't change your lifestyle or diet, then if you have to go off the medication for any reason, you will most likely gain the weight back.
Below is a short primer on the latest on these new medications.
Wegovy is what is generically called semaglutide. This medication is a GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) receptor agonist and it has been approved for weight loss.
How does Wegovy work?
Wegovy is a higher dose of semaglutide than the medication called Ozempic (which is approved for type 2 diabetes treatment). It is meant to induce long-term weight loss by activating something called GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas and other areas such as the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and our central nervous system.
Through this medication, the body releases more insulin and manages blood sugar better as well as reducing appetite.
It also "delays gastric emptying", which means the food you eat moves more slowly through the GI tract. This can cause GI issues for some people.
Users get the benefits of a trifecta of better blood sugar control, feeling full longer, and reduced appetite. (1)
GLP-1 is a natural hormone made in the body so these medications are really taking over a natural process that is already occurring and enhancing it.
Mounjaro is a GLP 1 receptor agonist and GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) agonist.(1)
The generic name for Mounjaro is tirzepatide.
It has been shown to be effective for weight loss, inducing weight loss of about 25 pounds in a year in some people.
How does Mounjaro work
GIP can be thought of as a similar hormone to GLP-1 but using it causes less GI tract distress. So by combining both of these molecules, people are able to handle higher activation with fewer side effects than for example GLP-1 receptor agonists alone (like Wegovy).
This is why Mounjaro has had quite impressive results in helping people lose weight.
Does Mounjaro work better than Wegovy for weight loss?
First, it's important to note that only Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss at this time. Mounjaro is only approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
But Mounjaro has had a better track record in the amounts of weight lost by users.
Are Mounjaro and Wegovy safe?
As with any medication, there are always potential side effects. Also, there are some contraindications. These drugs are safe enough to be FDA-approved but there are always potential risks.
Ideally, if you are considering using any of these medications, I highly recommend speaking to a medical doctor who is board-certified in obesity medicine. There are nuances to this avenue of weight loss that can be very critical, so speak with someone that is an expert in this area, not just your regular doctor.
Also, make sure you use the lowest amount of any medication that gets you the results you are looking for.
And any good obesity medicine doctor will tell you that these drugs MUST be taken in conjunction with lifestyle and diet changes.
As mentioned above, if you just take the drug and don't change your lifestyle or diet, then if you have to go off the medication for any reason, you will gain the weight back.
You should also be aware that this class of obesity medications is seen as lifelong drugs.
In other words, if you start it, you may need to take it for life in order to keep the weight off. No judgment about that but you should keep that in mind.
What can you do instead?
Whether you take an anti-obesity medication or not, if you are looking to lose weight you will most likely need to make some lifestyle and diet modifications.
If that were easy for you, you probably wouldn't have read this article.
If you are looking for expert guidance on all things relating to healthy, sustainable weight loss, then I suggest you learn more about our approach.
We are here to help you with a compassionate, holistic, and science-based approach.
If you would like to learn more, please click on the link below to see if you are a good fit for our program.
If you would like to get a deeper education about weight loss medications I recommend checking out my friend and colleauge's YouTube channel, You Got This. She is a super smart obesity medicine physician and her videos are shorts, sweet, and highly educational.