In today’s blog, we’re going to do something a little different for us. Normally we talk about nutrition and share suggestions about the how’s, what’s, why’s and importance of good nutrition. And of course, we often talk about the importance of “knowing your numbers.”
Sometimes our blogs veer a little off course with a focus on the importance of good sleep or regular physical activity. But of course they work hand-in-hand with good nutrition for an overall healthy lifestyle. (A few times we’ve also talked about the role of nutrition for your dog. But you know the saying: happy dog, happy dog pawrents.)
So, this blog may seem a little off brand for us. However, by the time we’re through, you’ll understand where and why we’re going today, and you’ll also realize that, in fact, we are sharing some important nutrition/good health advice.
We’re here to join an ongoing conversation that’s taking place all over—from mainstream press to social media platforms. The buzz is about an FDA-approved drug that’s generating extreme attention and widespread use. That drug is Ozempic.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an injectable, FDA-approved prescription drug that, along with diet and exercise, when administered once a week to those with type 2 diabetes, can reduce blood sugar levels and improve A1c test results. It is manufactured by Novo Nordisk and is produced in these doses—2 mg, 1 mg, 0.5 mg and 0.25 mg.
It is generally prescribed to adult type 2 diabetes patients who are not having success in managing their diabetes through other drugs. (Although it can be used alongside other diabetes drugs, for example, metformin.)
With your prescription, you can obtain Ozempic from your pharmacist. Your healthcare practitioner should give you full instructions and teach you how to inject the drug under your skin, in the thigh, upper arm or stomach area, and not in a vein or muscle.
Although the dosage you use will depend on your personal situation and results discussed in consultation with your doctor, Ozempic usually starts at the lowest dose (0.25 mg) for 4 weeks, then ramps up to 0.5 mg for a minimum of another 4 weeks and then higher as needed. FDA has approved Ozempic at the 2 mg dose to help people with type 2 diabetes reach their blood sugar (A1c) goal.
What Does Ozempic Do Exactly?
Ozempic (its generic name is semaglutide) is in a class of drugs known as Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists (incretin mimetics). This group of medications, says the National Institutes of Health, is used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus and in some cases may be used for obesity.
While there are some GLP-1 medications approved by FDA for weight loss, Ozempic is not one of them. More on that later.
According to drugs.com, Ozempic works by binding to GLP-1 receptors, stimulating and releasing insulin from the pancreas when your body recognizes you need it. The medication helps to lower your blood sugar levels and A1C—two things that are very important for those with diabetes to keep track of. Ozempic also helps to reduce the amount of sugar released by your liver and slows the rate at which food leaves your stomach to help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Ozempic should be used in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise, both of which are important for those with type 2 diabetes in order to best control blood sugar levels and thus keep diabetes in check.
The drug offers other health benefits too: for example, Ozempic is also approved by FDA for those with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events, including stroke, heart attack, or death. Those with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk than those who are not for serious CVD issues.
Will You Lose Weight with Ozempic?
Ozempic is a drug for type 2 diabetes and therefore is technically only available for those who have that condition. It’s not generally the first line of defense for diabetes (or even prediabetes). In consultation with your doctor, he or she can determine whether you are a candidate for Ozempic.
Some doctors are providing prescriptions for Ozempic for people without type 2 diabetes but for another reason completely.
Although Ozempic is not a weight loss drug, as it turns out, Ozempic may help you lose weight. For example, the manufacturer of the drug cites two different studies on adults with type 2 diabetes examining results for A1c, and reports that “adults with type 2 diabetes taking Ozempic lost up to 14 pounds.” (They also pointed out that while many in the study lost weight, there were some who actually gained weight.)
In addition, Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of the drug, clearly states that Ozempic is not a weight loss drug. Nor is it approved by FDA as a weight loss drug.
(As an aside, Novo Nordisk also offers a prescription medication, Wegovy, that is FDA-approved for chronic weight management (under certain conditions.)
Why is Ozempic Getting so Much Attention?
Like so many things in this world, celebrities, TikTok, other social media and mainstream media are driving forces behind new trends. And Ozempic has been touted widely by these types of influencers and influential sources as a trendy drug of choice for weight loss, discussing both the good and the bad.
And yes, because weight loss is possible with Ozempic, some doctors are prescribing the medication off-label—which means, according to FDA, unapproved use of an approved drug.
This is not the first time that drugs are used off-label nor is it the first time that celebrities and other influencers will share their off-label drug use. And we don’t expect that it will be the last time for either of those things.
Long-term, healthy weight loss is generally best achieved through healthy habits including a well-balanced diet, adding supplements if/as needed, regular exercise, good sleep patterns, stress reduction and regular testing to assure your what you’re doing is working.
Be aware that there have been other drugs and over-the-counter products in the past that have been promoted for weight loss, only to cause serious adverse events.
If you’re considering Ozempic for weight loss, do your research and discuss your options with your doctor.
What is the Downside of Ozempic?
While weight loss may be a happy “bonus” for those for whom the drug is intended, and even for others who are taking it off-label, be aware that there are potential side effects with Ozempic, as there are for other prescription medications.
The most common side effects include things like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and constipation.
The more serious side effects include:
- Potential thyroid tumors, including cancer
- Inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Vision changes
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)—this is more likely if you’re also using insulin
- Kidney problems (possibly kidney failure)
- Gallbladder problems
- Serious allergic reactions.
There are also some people who are not good candidates for Ozempic, even if they have type 2 diabetes. These include those who personally have/had (or have family members who have had) Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma (MTC) or Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
The Ozempic website has a lot of important information if you are taking or considering taking this medication or if you are just curious about the medication.
What is ‘Ozempic Face’?
There is another potential side effect from Ozempic, reported in Prevention magazine and other media. It’s known as “Ozempic face,” a slang description coined by cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, which refers to the haggard look that comes from losing weight quickly.
And now, the Hollywood Reporter is talking about “Ozempic body,” a term used for saggy skin that comes from quick weight loss and lands in places where you least want sag (e.g., your face, your buttocks, arms, abdomen and even knees).
Another consequence from the off-label usage of Ozempic is that it has caused a shortage of the drug for people who need it for its intended use—to treat and manage type 2 diabetes.
What are Some Other Ways to Manage Your Blood Sugar?
There’s no question that it’s important to manage your blood sugar levels—especially if you have diabetes—so you can manage your diabetes and avoid any or all of the serious consequences that may result from diabetes. And it’s equally as important if you have pre-diabetes to also control your blood sugar levels so your pre-diabetes doesn’t move up to full-blown diabetes.
But even if you don’t yet fall into the blood glucose ranges that represent either diabetes or pre-diabetes, you want to do what you can to avoid those unhappy consequences.
Here are some quick dietary and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your glucose (sugar) blood levels:
- Diet matters. To improve blood sugar control, limit processed foods and added sugars. Don’t eliminate carbs totally from your diet but focus on eating complex carbs. And be aware that any carbohydrate, even the healthy ones, can be broken down into glucose by your body.
- Eat balanced meals/snacks. Aim to include protein and healthy fats along with complex carbs that are high in fiber to reduce blood sugar spikes, improve satiety and increase digestion time.
- Practice physical activity.Not only is this important for your overall health, but it’s especially effective in reducing blood sugar and improving the effectiveness of insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas that helps control your body’s blood sugar.
- Manage stress.Stress signals your body to release cortisol, a hormone whose main function is to increase glucose output from your liver. Over time, this can lead to elevated blood sugar.
- Good sleep is a must. Did you know that those who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to have elevated HbA1c levels? Aim for between seven and nine.
- Test regularly. A key component of managing your glucose (blood) sugar levels is to “know your numbers,” meaning that you need to test your glucose levels regularly and make changes as needed to either lower or (in some cases) raise your numbers. The term “regularly” depends on your personal situation as does the type of glucose testing you do.
You can test your levels in a doctor’s office or lab with a blood draw or at-home with a simple finger prick. The most common types of blood sugar testing include: 1) a fasting (or non-fasting) blood sugar test which provides a one-time snapshot of your current glucose level and 2) an A1c test (our at-home test is called an HbA1c test), which measures the amount of glucose in your blood over a three-month period, giving you a fuller picture of how your body tolerates glucose.