Ozempic, a prescription medication that’s approved by the FDA to treat those with Type 2 diabetes. It’s a weekly injection that helps the pancreas make more insulin, and those on it have claimed it’s helped them in amazing ways.
But Ozempic–known generically as semaglutide–is also being used by plenty of people who don’t have a diagnosed disease, due to a side effect that many people have described as nothing short of amazing–weight loss.
I needed to know more about this “miracle drug,” so a couple weeks ago on the podcast I sat down to talk with nutrition scientist and Senior Director of Global Clinical Research at Weight Watchers, Dr. Michelle Cardel.
Below I’m going through a few important points we discussed, but you’ll have to check out the interview for all the finer points. Michelle is great, and we laughed so much during this one!
This was a tricky question for Michelle to answer, as–with the exception of people who have chronic conditions like obesity or diabetes or obesity–the word “need” is rather subjective.
Do some people feel like they need to lose 10, 20, 30 pounds? Sure. But from the clinical perspective, there’s a specific group of people who actually need it.
Here’s what Michelle has to say:
“FDA guidelines suggest that anybody with a BMI over 30, or a BMI over 27 with a qualifying health condition, like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc, [can use these medications. They] were originally designed for folks with diabetes. So that is kind of like the the FDA guidelines of who should get access to these medications. … From the FDA guidelines perspective, that is who is medically qualified to access these medications.”
Michelle says there’s one major thing people seem to notice when taking Ozempic or a semaglutide, and that’s less of a desire to eat.
“The overwhelming thing that we hear from patients is a reduction in food noise. Food noise is that mental chatter that is constantly telling you, ‘I need to eat. I’m hungry. Feed me.’ That preoccupation with food.”
And ultimately, that can result in people taking in a lot less food
“Patients report feeling like a severe reduction in hunger, like they are just not hungry. If anything, they have to be ensuring adequate calorie intake to make sure they’re eating enough. They report food aversions to various foods; certain foods just don’t seem appealing or appetizing to them anymore.”
Because the brain is at the center of so much of our appetite and behavior, Michelle says Ozempic and the related family of semaglutide medications work by targeting it.
But there’s also a physical component to how it works; Ozempic is actually slowing your digestion, Michelle says.
“It’s targeting the brain centers of appetite. So there’s actual reduction in appetite. And simultaneously, it’s also slowing gastric emptying, so you’re gonna feel full for longer. So it’s a multi-pronged approach that’s hitting both your brain and your gut.
And one final piece of advice Michelle has for anyone considering Ozempic or a semaglutide: It’s not a fix-all. Michelle says it’s important to remember, you have to make healthy lifestyle changes that support your weight loss as well, and keep them in place.
“I think the most important piece is to ensuring that you have all these healthy habits in place. There’s no medication that’s going to help you to eat healthier, to move more, to shift to a more positive mindset. So it’s essential to pair these medications with an evidence-based lifestyle program that is going to help you achieve overall healthier diet quality.”
For the whole (amazing) conversation, make sure to check out Episode 254 of We Gotta Talk!