How Do GLP-1 Medications Work for Weight Loss?

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Struggling with weight has been an uphill battle for many. But now, a new medication could be the answer – GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide 1) agonists.

GLP-1 agonists aren’t like typical diet pills. They have a new way to help with weight control by focusing on factors that affect hunger, fullness, and metabolism.

As you read on, you’ll learn the fascinating science behind how these medications work. These drugs show remarkable effects on digestion, appetite, and insulin by copying the actions of the GLP-1 hormone.

Prepare to find a new solution that may help you live the healthy, vibrant life you desire.

Understanding GLP-1 Agonists

GLP-1 agonists are synthetic injectable medications designed to mimic the actions of the GLP-1 hormone. These drugs can be divided into two major categories:

  • Short-Acting GLP-1 Agonists: These drugs work quickly but wear off fast, so they must be taken often. Examples include exenatide and lixisenatide.
  • Long-Acting GLP-1 Agonists: These medications have a longer duration of action, allowing for less frequent dosing. Examples include semaglutide, dulaglutide and liraglutide.

Related, Medical vs. Conventional Weight Loss Program – What’s Best?

Mechanism of Action

GLP-1 medications have a vast role in weight loss. Here’s how they work,

1. Mimicking the GLP-1 Hormone

GLP-1 agonists copy the effects of the GLP-1 hormone made by cells in the intestine. This hormone regulates a variety of biological activities, including:

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: Insulin is released from the pancreas when GLP-1 is present. Insulin helps lower blood sugar levels, especially after meals.
  • Appetite Regulation: GLP-1 signals the brain to increase feelings of fullness and satiety, reducing food intake.
  • Slowed Gastric Emptying: GLP-1 makes you feel full by slowing down stomach emptying, leading to eating fewer calories.

2. Interaction with GLP-1 Receptors

GLP-1 agonists attach to GLP-1 receptors in organs like the pancreas, brain, and gut to produce their effects. This interaction triggers a cascade of events, ultimately leading to the desired outcomes.

  • Pancreatic Effects: These drugs can help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar because they switch on GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas.
  • Brain Effects: GLP-1 agonists impact the brain’s receptors. It can reduce hunger and increase feelings of fullness. As a result, people may eat less and lose weight.
  • Gastrointestinal Effects: GLP-1 agonists can also work with digestive system receptors to slow stomach emptying. It can help you feel fuller, which encourages you to eat less.

Related, 5 Benefits of Medical Weight Loss

How Do GLP-1 Medications Work for Weight Loss?

Use in Obesity

FDA-Approved Medications for Obesity Treatment

While GLP-1 agonists were initially developed for managing type 2 diabetes, their weight loss effects have garnered significant attention, leading to the approval of several medications specifically for chronic weight management in individuals with obesity or overweight.

  • Liraglutide: Approved in 2014, Saxenda was the first GLP-1 agonist approved for chronic weight management in individuals with obesity or overweight, in addition to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.
  • Semaglutide: In 2021, semaglutide (a higher-dose formulation of semaglutide) received FDA approval for chronic weight management with or without comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or dyslipidemia.

These medicines are also commonly prescribed to persons with a BMI of 27 or higher than and have at least one condition associated with their conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Effects on Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

Clinical studies have demonstrated that GLP-1 agonists approved for weight management can lead to significant and sustained weight loss when combined with lifestyle modifications like a balanced diet and regular exercise. For example, in clinical trials, individuals treated with semaglutide (Wegoby) experienced an average weight loss of 15-20% of their initial body weight over a 68-weeks.

Not only do GLP-1 agonists help people lose weight, they also improve several metabolic factors, including:

  • Improved Glycemic Control: GLP-1 agonists can help lower blood sugar levels, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Reduced Blood Pressure: GLP-1 agonists have been shown in some studies to slightly lower blood pressure in people who take them. It may make heart problems less likely.
  • Improved Lipid Profiles: GLP-1 agonists may also favor lipid levels, reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Related, 5 Reasons Medical Weight Loss Will Give You Results

Side Effects and Considerations

GLP-1 agonists can have side effects, just like any other medicine. Talking to your doctor about these effects before you start treatment is essential. Some of the most prevalent side effects are:

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation are among the most frequently reported side effects, particularly in the initial stages of treatment.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Most GLP-1 drugs are injected, which can make the area red, swollen, or painful.
  • Gallbladder Issues: Gallstones and cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation) may be more likely to happen to some people who take GLP-1 agonists.
  • Pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) has been reported in some people who take GLP-1 agonists, but the cause-and-effect link is not fully proven.

Following your healthcare provider’s guidance and instructions carefully is crucial when taking GLP-1 agonists. Regular monitoring and open communication about potential side effects are essential for safe and effective treatment.

PHNJ's Integrated Approach to Medical Weight Loss

At Prime Health of New Jersey (PHNJ), we have a complete Medical Weight Loss Program in East Windsor that blends the benefits of GLP-1 medications with one-on-one coaching and support. Our approach includes:

  • Customized treatment plans tailored to your individual needs and goals developed after a thorough evaluation by our healthcare team.
  • Doctor-supervised prescription of GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide, if appropriate for your situation.
  • Guided in-office start to your treatment, ensuring a safe and well-informed beginning to your weight loss journey.
  • Convenient at-home treatment continuity, allowing you to maintain your progress while accommodating your lifestyle.
  • Regular in-person check-ins to monitor your progress, celebrate achievements and make necessary adjustments to your plan.

By mixing the power of GLP-1 medications with coaching based on scientific proof, we can help you reach your weight loss goals and improve your health in a way that is unique to you and lasts.

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The Final Words

GLP-1 agonists have emerged as a promising medication in the fight against obesity and its related health challenges. These drugs work by copying the effects of the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone.

If you’re considering GLP-1 medications for weight management, consulting with our qualified healthcare providers at PHNJ is crucial. They will examine your case, discuss the pros and cons, and then make a treatment plan to help you get better and happier.

Remember that getting to a healthy weight and staying there requires medical help, changing your lifestyle, and getting support the whole way isn key. At PHNJ, we give you the tools and information to reach your weight loss goals safely and healthily. Book your appointment with us today to get a personalized weight loss plan.

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Our Team
Dr Farhan Malik
Dr. Farhan Malik Primary Care Physician
Dr Shoaib Malik
Dr. Shoaib Malik Primary Care Physician
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