How does the semaglutide in Wegovy work?

Why semaglutide injections help with weight loss

Wegovy (semaglutide) may be a bit of a new kid on the weight loss medication block, so it’s natural to be interested in how it works and whether it works at all!

New weight loss medications can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’ve been duped by dodgy ‘miracle weight loss cures’ before, which is why we’re here to put those fears and misconceptions to bed.

Wegovy is clinically proven to help people lose weight, working differently from other weight loss medications to help you reach your goals.

So let’s take a good hard look at how Wegovy injections work, and what that means for your weight loss when you pair them with exercise and a lower-calorie diet.

What is semaglutide?

Semaglutide is the active ingredient in Wegovy injections, and it’s also used in a type 2 diabetes medication called Ozempic.

When first introduced to the market, this medication was licensed only for diabetes management but over time it became clear that semaglutide could also be an effective weight-loss treatment.

Semaglutide is available as both tablets and weekly injections, but as the injectable formula is the one used in Wegovy, that’s the one we’ll be focusing on today.

As a medication, it’s made life easier for many type 2 diabetics and weight loss patients, as a once-weekly injection is much more convenient than the daily injections needed for similar medications, such as liraglutide (also known as Victoza or Saxenda).

Let’s be honest, who wants to inject themselves every day when they could do it once a week and still see excellent results? Not me!

What does semaglutide do in the body?

Semaglutide is a type of medication known as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.

Don’t worry if that phrase means absolutely nothing to you, because it’s just a complicated medical term used to describe medications that imitate hormones naturally produced in your body to control your blood sugar.

It stimulates insulin release in your pancreas while also keeping it from releasing another hormone called glucagon, which works together with insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels.

Insulin is the hormone that tells your body that your blood sugar levels are high enough, and it can absorb sugar to use for energy.

On the other end of the spectrum, glucagon is released when you have low blood sugar, telling your liver to break down stored sugars and fats to fuel your body.

By affecting these two hormones, semaglutide and other medications like it help to reduce the speed that glucose is absorbed into your blood and stabilise blood sugar levels.

This makes semaglutide a very effective type 2 diabetes medication, but it has also been found to have unexpected effects on your appetite and weight.

How does Wegovy cause weight loss?

Now you’re probably thinking, this whole blood sugar thing is all well and good, but what does that have to do with weight loss medication?

Well, it turns out that the thing that makes semaglutide an effective diabetes medication is the very same thing that makes it an effective weight loss medication.

By affecting your blood sugar levels, Wegovy injections can help you feel more satisfied after a meal and make you feel fuller for longer.

Naturally, this can make a big difference to your diet.

If you’re feeling fuller and more satisfied after your meal, you’ll be less likely to snack and more likely to stick to a lower-calorie diet, which naturally leads to weight loss.

It’s kind of like using a cheat code to make your diet easier to stick to, it won’t do all of the work for you (if it did, we’d be shouting it from the rooftops), but it will make it easier for you to reduce your calorie intake and make the lifestyle changes you’ll need to lose weight.

How is Wegovy different from other weight loss medications?

If you’ve ever considered taking a weight loss medication, you’ll probably be aware that there are a lot of options out there, with some of them seeming more effective than others.

So what makes Wegovy different?

Well, for starters, it works by affecting your hormones rather than reducing the amount of fat that your body absorbs.

Medications like orlistat (found in Alli and Orlos) are clinically proven to work by reducing the amount of fat you absorb from your food, and the remaining fat passes out of your system in your poo.

This can be very effective if you’re finding it easy to stick to a low-fat diet, but if you accidentally eat too much fat, you can find that a lot of it passes out of your system, which can be quite unpleasant, especially if you’re unprepared.

Wegovy doesn’t affect how your body absorbs fat, working instead to reduce your appetite, making it easier for you to stick to a low-calorie diet and form lasting habits that help you change your lifestyle long-term.

This can make it easier for you to maintain when you reach a healthy weight, as your mind and body become used to your new attitudes towards food and exercise, creating a new normal that will help you keep weight off.

Does Ozempic cause weight loss?

As Ozempic uses the same active ingredient as Wegovy, it works the same way, even though it's used to manage type 2 diabetes.

This means that patients taking Ozempic can experience the same feeling of fullness after they’ve eaten and may want to eat less as a result.

Naturally, this can cause weight loss the same way it does in those taking Wegovy — by reducing your daily calorie intake.

However, it’s important to note that Ozempic is not supposed to be a weight-loss drug, so if you don’t reduce your calorie intake while taking this medication, you won’t lose weight during your treatment.

If you’re at all worried about weight loss or other side effects you experience while taking Ozempic, Wegovy, or any other medication, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

They’ll be able to assess what’s going on, whether this medication is right for you, and what you should do next.

How much weight will I lose when I take Wegovy?

So now we know how Wegovy works, what kind of results will you actually see if you take it?

Well, patients taking semaglutide for weight loss in clinical trials have been found to lose an average of 15% of their starting body weight.

This means that if you start your treatment weighing 220lbs, you can lose an average of 33 pounds throughout your treatment, which could have you well on the way to a healthy BMI.

Of course, we should note that Wegovy will only be prescribed to those who have a BMI of 30 or over as a way to help them reach a healthy weight.

During your initial consultation, your prescriber will ask for your height and weight so they can work out your BMI, they’ll only continue to prescribe Wegovy if it’s the best possible treatment for you.

Well, now you know how Wegovy works and how it can help you reach your weight loss goals.

Hopefully, we’ve managed to clear up your questions and help you decide whether you think this could be a suitable treatment for you.

Remember, if you ever have any questions about your medication, you should speak to a medical professional like your GP or local pharmacist.

They’ve got all the answers and can help you start your weight loss journey off on the right foot.

Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 16 March 2023
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