Despite attempting numerous diets and weight loss programs, Joan Lewis was unable to shed the extra pounds. However, following her diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, her physician recommended Ozempic as a solution.
Joan Lewis, who was 38 years old in 2009, underwent chemotherapy to combat her breast cancer. Subsequently, she noticed an increase in weight.
According to Lewis, “My weight remained relatively constant even after childbirth. However, I believe that undergoing menopause at an accelerated pace due to chemotherapy at the age of 40 caused me to gain weight, making it nearly impossible to shed it,” as she informed HealthyVogue.
Lewis claimed that the treatment she underwent had altered her body’s chemistry, making it difficult for her to tolerate the same foods she had always consumed, leading to weight gain.
Over the previous 12 years, she experimented with numerous diets and weight loss plans, such as Weight Watchers, Noom, Keto, anti-inflammatory diet, Whole 30, low carb, and Ideal Protein.
Lewis stated that prior to having children, she had always relied on Weight Watchers and had achieved great success. However, after undergoing treatment, she attempted all of the various weight loss programs, but experienced minimal and temporary success. It appeared as though her body was unwilling to relinquish the weight, she stated.
Diabetes diagnosis and turning to medication
In recent years, Lewis noticed an increase in her blood sugar levels, and in September 2022, she received a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
According to Lewis, “My cardiologist and primary care doctor were both aware of my frustration in attempting to shed weight.”
Following her diagnosis, her physician prescribed Metformin, a medication used to regulate blood sugar levels, in addition to consulting a dietician to design a low-glycemic diet. Despite adhering to the diet and taking Metformin for three months, her A1C levels continued to rise.
Lewis explained that “We decided to begin a low dosage of Ozempic to reduce my A1C levels and initiate some weight loss.”
Dr. Sethu Reddy, President of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, clarified that Ozempic is an injectable drug that stimulates GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas and other regions of the body, increasing insulin production in response to elevated blood sugar levels.
Dr. Sethu Reddy informed HealthyVogue that “Ozempic also has the ability to decrease glucagon levels, which is an anti-insulin hormone. Along with improving blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes, these agents can suppress appetite and increase feelings of fullness, potentially resulting in weight loss. The weight loss can also aid in enhancing blood sugar control further.”
The active chemical compound in Ozempic is semaglutide.
Dr. Rekha B. Kumar, Chief Medical Officer at Found and associate professor of medicine at Cornell, stated that semaglutide, found in Ozempic, can aid in weight loss by prolonging feelings of fullness, delaying stomach emptying, and reducing blood sugar levels.
According to Kumar, “Semaglutide is an FDA-approved medication for managing obesity under the name Wegovy. As a result, Ozempic may assist diabetes patients with weight loss.”
While Ozempic is only FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes, Kumar claims that “when diabetes patients also have obesity, Ozempic is an excellent medication option.”
The utilization of Ozempic for weight loss in the absence of type 2 diabetes is deemed as “off-label use” of the medication.
In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration stated that there were shortages of Ozempic, which sparked some controversy since individuals were using the medication off-label for weight loss purposes.
According to Reddy, “Given the recent supply issues, one would prioritize diabetes management. However, weight loss in individuals without diabetes will become a more common indication in the future. The utilization of GLP-1 analogs for weight loss will also be determined by insurance policies and access to these medications.”
Losing weight and experiencing side effects of Ozempic
Since starting Ozempic in January 2023, Lewis has been losing around 4 pounds per week, according to her statement.
“I never feel hungry and become full very quickly,” she said. “Before, I used to snack when I came home [from work] or feel very hungry at lunch, but not anymore.”
Nonetheless, she does experience some side effects, such as an upset stomach when she eats greasy or fatty foods like french fries.
Dr. Sethu Reddy stated that the majority of individuals experience mild side effects that cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including reflux, nausea, and vomiting.
Dr. Reddy pointed out that because the injection is administered weekly, side effects may occur earlier in the week. While most side effects are mild and gastrointestinal-related, such as nausea, vomiting, and reflux, there have been rare reports of pancreatitis, an inflammation in the pancreas, associated with the use of GLP-1 analogs like Ozempic. However, no definitive causal relationship has been established, and caution should be exercised when initiating GLP-1 analogs in individuals with a history of pancreatitis.
According to Kumar, another serious potential side effect could be an elevated risk of tumor growth in individuals with a rare type of thyroid cancer called medullary thyroid cancer.
“Individuals with medullary thyroid cancer, genetic syndromes that include medullary thyroid cancer, pancreatitis, severe acid reflux, and gallstones would not be suitable candidates,” she explained.
Lewis stated that taking Ozempic has required her to modify her eating habits.
“At times, foods taste very different and not in a positive way. I enjoy coffee, but the flavor can be so overpowering that it makes me feel a little nauseous,” she said.
The medication also makes her conscious of her food selections.
“I have been very mindful of the foods I consume. I am aware that if I eat foods high in fat, I am likely to feel unwell. It’s a different perspective,” she explained.
Ozempic needs to be taken long-term
According to Kumar, Ozempic is intended for long-term use to treat diabetes only, and if used off-label for weight loss, it should be continued long-term to maintain the lost weight.
However, Reddy cautioned that people who take Ozempic should be closely monitored by their doctor for worsening sugar control over time, and eventually, almost all patients with type 2 diabetes will require insulin therapy.
Despite this, Reddy predicts that Ozempic and similar medications will become more widely used due to their proven cardioprotective benefits and combined glucose and weight-lowering properties.
For now, Lewis plans to continue taking Ozempic for diabetes and weight management.
“If this medication can help lower my A1C and assist me in losing a few pounds, I will be more motivated to keep it off and feel better about my health and myself,” she said. “However, I am uncertain how long I will be on this medication.”