#54: 💉 Ozempic: The Viral Weight Loss Sensation
The Quest for a “Magic Pill” and Ozempic's Rise in Popularity
I just got back from a four day conference with amazing healthtech innovators in the beautiful Portuguese Douro Valley. We discussed the latest challenges and trends in healthtech and shared stories.
I left the conference inspired, with 40 new friends and grateful for their ambitions to tackle some of the biggest health challenges facing the world.
Over the next weeks, I want to share with you some of topics that came up spanning longevity, women’s health, diabetes, electronic health records, and biology in space.
💬 In this note:
💉 Ozempic: The Viral Weight Loss Sensation
📚 Our Missing Hearts
💉 Ozempic: The Viral Weight Loss Sensation
In a 2019 report on metabolic health, we learned that 88% of American adults have an unhealthy metabolism. A follow-up 2022 study had even worse results. It showed that 93% of American adults are metabolically unhealthy leaving only ~7% of American adults with optimal metabolic health.
Our metabolism is the energy factory of our body. If it’s not working properly, this leads to health issues, such as weight gain, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Enter Ozempic.
Ozempic is a new injectable medication formulated to help adults with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar.
It’s not officially considered a weight-loss drug, but the research suggests that people who take Ozempic may lose weight while on the medication.
Ozempic’s weight loss effects have gone viral on social media and people without type 2 diabetes are using Ozempic off-label (using it for a condition other than that for which it has been officially approved) for weight loss.
What is Ozempic?
Ozempic is an FDA-approved prescription medication for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in adults. It was created by Novo Nordisk and hit the shelves late summer 2023, boosting Novo Nordisk’s stock price by ~13%.
Ozempic helps improve blood sugar and lowers hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood glucose over time.
It also helps lower their risk of stroke and heart attack in adults with type 2 diabetes and with known heart disease.
How does it work?
The active compound in Ozempic is called semaglutide. Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist (AKA an activator).
Ozempic works by activating the GLP-1 receptors throughout the body and enhancing the effects of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1.
GLP-1 boosts the release of insulin in the pancreas in response to food intake, which helps to control blood sugar.
GLP-1 also reduces the release of glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar.
The activation of GLP-1 by ozempic therefore helps control blood sugar.
Why does it work for weight loss?
While Ozempic is not FDA-approved for weight loss, there is an alternative. A similar drug called Wegovy is an FDA-approved semaglutide which is provided at a higher dose for weight loss.
In addition to the benefits of regulating blood glucose by activating GLP-1 receptors, semaglutide medications also affect the hunger centers in the brain by reducing hunger, appetite and cravings.
Semaglutide medications also slow the rate of stomach emptying, prolonging fullness and satiety after meals.
In a clinical study by Novo Nordisk, nearly 2000 adults with excess weight or obesity who did not have diabetes were given 2.4 mg of semaglutide or a placebo once a week for 68 weeks along with lifestyle intervention. Those who took the semaglutide lost 14.9% of their body weight compared with 2.4% of those who took the placebo.
Worries about Ozempic
Some doctors are warning people against using Ozempic, noting that people on the drug are not just losing fat, they are also losing lean muscle mass.
We naturally lose muscle mass as we age and we should be working to fight this natural loss, not amplify it.
Losing lean muscle mass can be highly detrimental as you age. You want to be strong in your 70s, not frail which can lead to a higher risk of injury.
Doctors recommend a combination of semaglutide drugs with resistance training to reduce losing lean muscle mass.
While Ozempic is being praised as the answer to the obesity and diabetes epidemic, and it is providing hope to those struggling with obesity and diabetes to regulate their hormones, it is important to consider it may not be the magic drug for every patient, and lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise should be considered and used in combination with the medication.
📚 Book of the Week
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
You may remember author Celeste Ng for her bestseller Little Fires Everywhere. She’s back and she delivers another emotionally charged masterpiece with Our Missing Hearts.
The world in Our Missing Hearts is consumed with fear. The government is enforcing laws to preserve “American culture” and exercising an extreme level of control on civil society and liberties.
Bird Gardner was abandoned by his mother when he was nine-years-old. He soon discovers his mother’s poems are the voice of the rebellion. Determined to understand more about his past, he heads to New York City to find her.
⚡️ Check This Out
Time travel through these stunningly accurate renderings of Tenochtitlan 500 years ago.
Modern day Mexico City is home to close to 9 million people but in 1518, it was home to 200,000 farmers, artisans, merchants, soldiers, priests and aristocrats.
The city looked astonishingly different a century ago. It was an island surrounded by a lake with massive temple pyramids centered around a grid of streets and single-story houses.
Now the lake has been drained, the temples demolished during the Spanish conquest, and tragically nearly none of the original city infrastructure remains.