The Role of Medications in Medical Weight Loss

Table of Contents

In the past few years, medical weight loss has become very common. That is because the number of obese people is rising at a scary rate. But what does “medical weight loss” mean, and what’s the role of medications in medical weight loss?

Let’s learn more about this subject and look at how essential medications are for helping people reach their weight loss goals.

Understanding Medical Weight Loss

People who use medical weight loss follow a full, scientifically based plan that medical professionals monitor. There are fad diets and over-the-counter weight loss products, but medical weight loss plans are different because they are made to fit each person’s needs, health, and weight loss goals.

One or more of these programs usually include

  • Dietary modifications
  • Exercise regimens
  • Behavioral therapy
  • And in many cases, FDA-approved medications

Millions of people around the world are overweight or obese, and the disease is complicated and lasts a long time. It’s connected to health problems like

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea

When doctors consider weight loss from a medical perspective, they can help their patients not only lose weight but also become healthier and happier.

The Role of Medications in Medical Weight Loss

A lot of medical weight loss plans depend on medications. They’re not a magic pill, but when used with changes to your lifestyle, they can make it much easier to lose weight. These medicines help you lose weight in a number of different ways, such as:

1. Appetite Suppression

Appetite suppressants are medicines that work on the brain and nerves to make you feel less hungry and less inclined to eating. They usually do this by stimulating the hypothalamus gland and changing brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Common examples include phentermine-topiramate and naltrexone-bupropion combinations. These medicines primarily work by changing how neurotransmitters, mostly norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, are released and taken back up. Changes in these neurotransmitters can make you feel less hungry, reduce food urges, and help you stop overeating.

For example, phentermine causes the release of norepinephrine, which turns on the sympathetic nerve system and makes you feel less hungry. Topiramate is thought to increase the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can make people feel less hungry.

An appetite reducer can help you feel less hungry, control your binge eating better, and lose weight faster if you also eat well and exercise regularly. However, experts recommend its use briefly because it can have side effects and make you hooked on them.

Related, Tips for Managing Medical Weight Loss Journey

2. Reducing Fat Absorption

Fat absorption inhibitors reduce the dietary fat the body absorbs from food. The primary example is Orlistat (Xenical, Alli). Pancreatic and stomach lipases are enzymes that break down fat in the digestive system. Orlistat stops them from doing their job.

When someone eats fat, their body creates lipases to break down the fat. Orlistat binds to these lipases, preventing them from working effectively. So, about 30% of the fat we eat goes through our digestive system without being absorbed and is flushed out of our bodies through our bowel movements.

Fat absorption inhibitors can help you eat fewer calories, lose weight, and improve your lipid profile, and they may be used for a long time. However, they can have side effects like sticky stools, more frequent bowel movements, and possibly not getting enough vitamins. So, it is very important to be closely monitored by a doctor and eat a healthy diet while taking these medicines.

Related, How to Get Weight Loss Medication?

3. Influencing Metabolism

Medications that change metabolism work by changing how the body uses and saves energy. Not only does metformin improve insulin’s performance, but it also stops the liver from making glucose, may change the bacteria in the gut, and turns on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).

Metformin works in several ways, including improving insulin’s effectiveness, stopping the liver from making glucose, possibly changing gut bacteria, and turning on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK).

Metformin can help with medical weight loss by causing slow but steady weight loss, improving metabolic health, and lowering the risk of diabetes in people already at high risk. Most people can handle it well, so it may be possible to use it for a long time.

However, while people with insulin resistance or obesity may lose more weight with this supplement, they may also lose less.

Related, Effective Medical Weight Loss Medications

4. Increase Feelings of Fullness

GLP-1 receptor agonists are a relatively new medication class that increases feelings of fullness or satiety. They were first used to treat type 2 diabetes, but because they helped people lose weight, they were also approved for use in treating obesity.

Examples include semaglutide (Wegovy) and liraglutide (Saxenda). These medicines act like glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone controlling hunger and food intake.GLP-1 receptor agonists slow the stomach’s emptying, raise insulin levels, lower glucagon levels, and tell the brain that the stomach is full. Enhancing these actions significantly impacts habits and weight loss efforts.

There is less hunger and a stronger feeling of fullness. Higher blood sugar levels are better controlled for people with diabetes. People lose a lot of weight, often more than other weight loss drugs can. Most GLP-1 receptor agonists are given by injection, either once a day or once a week, depending on the drug.

FDA-Approved Medications for Weight Loss

Now that we’ve talked about the different ways drugs can help you lose weight, let’s take a closer look at the FDA-approved weight loss drugs that are currently on the market:

1. Semaglutide (Wegovy)

  • Type: GLP-1 receptor agonist
  • Mechanism: Similar to liraglutide but more potent
  • Usage: Approved for long-term use, administered via weekly injection

2. Phentermine/topiramate ER (Qsymia)

  • Type: Combination appetite suppressant
  • It works by combining the benefits of phentermine and topiramate, which may make you less hungry.
  • Usage: Approved for long-term use

3. Naltrexone/bupropion HCL (Contrave)

  • Type: Combination medication
  • Mechanism: Affects the reward center in the brain and may reduce food cravings
  • Usage: Approved for long-term use

4. Liraglutide (Saxenda)

  • Type: GLP-1 receptor agonist
  • Mechanism: Mimics GLP-1 to increase feelings of fullness and reduce appetite
  • Usage: Approved for long-term use, administered via daily injection

5. Tirzepatide (Zep Bound)

  • Type: Dual GIP and GLP-1 receptor agonist
  • Mechanism: It works by turning on both GIP and GLP-1 receptors, which makes you feel less hungry and more full.
  • Usage: Approved for long-term use, administered via weekly injection

Each of these medications has benefits, potential side effects, and considerations. Medicines are chosen based on the patient’s medical history, weight loss goals, and how well they respond to treatment, among other factors.

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Summary

The role of medications in medical weight loss plans is essential because they  help people lose weight in many ways. Because they make you feel fuller and less hungry, slow down fat intake, and change your metabolism, these drugs can make lifestyle changes work much better.

It’s important to remember, though, that medicines are not a magic bullet. A full plan that includes the following is the best way to use them:

  • A balanced, calorie-controlled diet
  • Regular physical activity
  • Behavioral modifications
  • Ongoing medical supervision

If you’re having trouble losing weight, consider looking into our medical weight loss program that incorporates medications. Our professionals can help you determine if weight loss pills are right for you and make a detailed plan that fits your needs and objectives.

Remember that weight loss is a process, not a goal. If you want to lose weight and improve your health and well-being in general, you need the right help, tools, and methods.


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