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man preparing Ozempic injection

Ozempic is a once-weekly injectable medication primarily designed to assist adults in managing blood sugar levels if they have type 2 diabetes. Although it isn’t officially categorized as a weight loss drug, there is research indicating that individuals taking Ozempic may experience slight weight loss while using the medication. Notably, the key component of Ozempic, called semaglutide, has FDA approval at higher doses for addressing obesity and other weight-related medical conditions under the name Wegovy.

Due to a shortage of Wegovy and the spreading awareness of Ozempic’s potential for weight loss through social media, some individuals who do not have type 2 diabetes have started using Ozempic off-label as a weight loss aid.

We will discuss this emerging trend of using Ozempic for weight loss and provide insights from medical professionals regarding its effectiveness, safety, and important considerations for those contemplating Ozempic as a weight loss solution.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat type 2 diabetes in adults. It effectively enhances blood sugar control, leading to a reduction in hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of long-term blood glucose, as supported by research referenced on the Ozempic website. Additionally, it aids adults with type 2 diabetes and a history of heart disease in lowering their risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.

The active ingredient in Ozempic, known as semaglutide, operates as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. Its mechanism involves activating GLP-1 receptors throughout the body, amplifying the effects of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1.

Christopher McGowan, M.D., an obesity medicine specialist, gastroenterologist, and the founder of True You Weight Loss in North Carolina, explains that GLP-1 serves several vital roles in the body. It prompts the pancreas to release insulin in response to food intake, aiding in blood sugar regulation. Moreover, it reduces the release of glucagon, a hormone that elevates blood glucose levels, further contributing to blood sugar control.

Ozempic is administered through a self-administered injection, taken once a week, delivering semaglutide in dosages of 0.5 milligrams, 1 milligram, or 2 milligrams.

Is Ozempic Similar to Insulin?

Ozempic is not insulin. Instead of acting as insulin itself, it encourages your pancreas to increase insulin production in response to elevated blood sugar levels. Lydia Alexander, M.D., an obesity medicine specialist based in California and the president-elect of the Obesity Medicine Association, emphasizes that Ozempic rarely leads to low blood sugar, a notable difference from insulin.

How Does Ozempic for Weight Loss Work?

Ozempic, a medication primarily prescribed for managing type 2 diabetes, has gained attention for its unexpected side effect—weight loss. While it’s not officially approved as a weight loss drug, many individuals taking Ozempic have experienced significant reductions in body weight.

Ozempic’s active ingredient, semaglutide, belongs to a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Its primary function is to mimic the actions of a naturally occurring hormone called GLP-1. GLP-1 plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels, and its effects extend beyond glucose control.

Here’s how Ozempic’s mechanism may contribute to weight loss:

  • Appetite Suppression: GLP-1 receptors in the brain help regulate appetite by sending signals that reduce feelings of hunger. Ozempic, by activating these receptors, may lead to decreased appetite and, consequently, reduced food intake.
  • Slower Gastric Emptying: GLP-1 slows down the emptying of the stomach, promoting a feeling of fullness and satiety. This can lead to smaller meal portions and decreased calorie consumption.
  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Ozempic helps the body use insulin more effectively. Enhanced insulin sensitivity can prevent excess glucose from being stored as fat and promote its use as an energy source.
  • Potential Fat Loss: While not yet fully understood, some research suggests that GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic may encourage the body to burn stored fat for energy.

In a substantial clinical trial supported by Novo Nordisk, 1,961 adults characterized by excess weight or obesity and without diabetes received a weekly dose of 2.4 milligrams of semaglutide or a placebo over 68 weeks alongside lifestyle interventions. Those administered semaglutide witnessed a remarkable 14.9% reduction in their body weight, while the placebo group experienced a mere 2.4% decrease.

It’s worth noting that the semaglutide dosage employed in this study exceeded that of Ozempic. Nevertheless, the 2.4-milligram dose corresponds to the amount of semaglutide found in the FDA-approved weight loss medication Wegovy.

Dr. McGowan underscores that Ozempic holds FDA approval exclusively for diabetes management and should not be regarded as a weight loss medication. Its counterpart, Wegovy, is the medication specifically endorsed for weight management.

Despite the similarity between Ozempic and Wegovy, they vary in terms of insurance coverage. Ozempic typically garners insurance coverage, whereas Wegovy frequently does not.

Dr. McGowan points out that the high demand for Wegovy, compounded by inventory and supply chain challenges, has significantly impacted its availability, leading many individuals to resort to off-label Ozempic usage for weight loss. Unfortunately, this has disrupted Ozempic’s accessibility for individuals with diabetes.

It’s essential to acknowledge that while semaglutide may contribute to weight loss during its usage, discontinuing the drug often results in significant weight regain. Dr. Rekha Kumar emphasizes that studies indicate that halting Ozempic usage entirely is likely to lead to the regain of most of the lost weight within several months. As Dr. McGowan explains, GLP-1 medications like Ozempic are intended for long-term use as they address chronic conditions, including both diabetes and obesity.

Is Ozempic Safe?

Ozempic is generally considered a safe medication with a multitude of advantages, as highlighted by Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine specialist and physician-scientist based at Massachusetts General Hospital. For the approximately 80% of patients who have both type 2 diabetes and obesity, Ozempic offers a dual benefit by effectively addressing both conditions.

Furthermore, Ozempic has demonstrated its ability to reduce the risk of major adverse coronary events, such as heart attacks and strokes, while also providing a range of other health benefits, as noted by Dr. Cody Stanford.

However, it’s essential to recognize that Ozempic may not be suitable for everyone. The manufacturer recommends that individuals with the following conditions should avoid using Ozempic:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Individuals under the age of 18
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Preexisting pancreas or kidney issues
  • A family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), which is an endocrine system disorder

As with any prescription medication, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider to determine whether Ozempic is a safe option for you and to determine the appropriate dosage if necessary.

Should I Use Ozempic to Lose Weight?

For individuals with type 2 diabetes, particularly those carrying extra weight or dealing with obesity, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if Ozempic might be a beneficial addition to their treatment plan. Ozempic has shown promise in helping manage blood sugar and facilitating weight loss in these cases. It’s essential to discuss your specific situation with a medical expert who can assess whether Ozempic aligns with your health goals.

However, using Ozempic as a short-term solution for cosmetic weight loss is discouraged by healthcare experts. This off-label use can lead to potential adverse effects and may result in the regained weight. Furthermore, it’s crucial to recognize that such off-label utilization of Ozempic can impact its availability for individuals who genuinely require it, such as those with type 2 diabetes or obesity.

It’s important to note that specific contraindications, like a history of medullary thyroid cancer, multiple endocrine neoplasia, or pancreatitis, should deter individuals from using Ozempic, as highlighted by Dr. Cody Stanford.


Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, et al. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. New England Journal of Medicine. 2021;384(11):989-1002.

Mares AC, Chatterjee S, Mukherjee D. Semaglutide for weight loss and cardiometabolic risk reduction in overweight/obesity. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2022;37(4):350-355.