How a Typical GLP-1 Program Works

How a Typical GLP-1 Program Works
How a Typical GLP-1 Program Works

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’re probably aware there are several new drugs on the market that have revolutionized the weight loss world. You probably even recognize their names – Wegovy, Saxenda, and Zepboung.

These medications are three distinct drugs, semaglutide, liraglutide, and tirzepatide, and are all GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1) medications. While these drugs are not a replacement for a balanced approach to weight loss, they are an amazing new tool.

Liraglutide, often sold as Saxenda, was the first GLP-1 medication developed. It was invented by scientist Lotte Bjerre Knudsen at Novo Nordisk around 1991 as an anti-diabetic drug, but it wasn’t approved as a treatment for obesity until 2014.

Semaglutide, often sold as Wegovy for weight loss or Ozempic for diabetes, was also developed by Knudsen and Novo Nordisk as an improvement on Liraglutide. While liraglutide had to be taken every day to ensure the GLP-1 remains in the system 24 hours a day, semaglutide is taken once a week. The injectable form of the drug was approved by the FDA in 2017.

Tirzepatide is a relative newcomer to the GLP-1 story, and unlike the others was not developed by Novo Nordisk. It was invented instead by Eli Lilly and Company and was given FDA approval in 2021.

How do GLP-1s affect the body?

Primarily, these medications work by activating GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas, which leads to more insulin release and less glucagon release responses.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars that pass into your bloodstream. Insulin helps move that sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells where it is used as energy. If you don’t produce enough insulin or your body is resistant to insulin, the sugar stays in your bloodstream.

Liraglutide and semaglutide were both first developed as anti-diabetic medications and this purpose is apparent in their core functioning – they work to counteract the insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Why do these anti-diabetic drugs work for weight loss?

There is a close link between weight gain and diabetes. So, it’s no accident that medications that helps fight the onset of diabetes is also useful when it comes to weight loss.

Not only do GLP-1s help to keep insulin in the body at a healthy level, and ensure your body is responsive to it, they also slow gastric emptying.

That means you feel full for longer, so you’re better able to ignore the food noise that might send you to the store cupboard whenever you’re faced with something stressful.

These medications also act on the brain to reduce hunger, which is obviously a great help when you’re trying to change your eating habits.

Typically, when a GLP-1 is prescribed for weight loss rather than diabetes, it will be prescribed at a higher dose.

Part of a combined strategy

A GLP-1 program will always be prescribed as part of a broader weight loss strategy, not as a miracle cure.

These drugs should be used to help remove initial blockers to a healthy lifestyle. For example, helping you break deeply embedded bad eating habits that constantly undermine your exercise routine, or helping you to get more mobile so you can get more active permanently.

Or they might be prescribed for people who are finding their biology is preventing them from losing weight initially, helping you to make longer-term changes to your body’s metabolism.

When you stop taking GLP-1 medications, you are very likely to regain the weight you’ve lost. You should talk with your healthcare team about how you plan to manage that transition.

But by using GLP-1 medications to jumpstart your weight loss journey, you give yourself the chance to embrace more healthy eating habits and a more active lifestyle.

Your aim should not be to rely on these drugs forever, but you should consider all the options available when it comes to finding the right weight loss strategy for you.

Leave a Comment