How does Saxenda work?

Released in 2020, Saxenda is a relatively new weight loss treatment. Originally used in diabetes, it was found to have beneficial effects on weight loss. Here we explore what Saxenda is, how it works and what to expect when taking Saxenda. 

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a new self-injectable weight loss treatment containing liraglutide. Liraglutide belongs to a group of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. Saxenda is currently the only weight loss injection available in the UK. 

How does Saxenda work?

Saxenda helps you lose weight by regulating your appetite. When you are eating, your body releases a hormone called GLP-1. GLP-1 reduces the rate at which your stomach empties. This helps you feel full for longer. GLP-1 also reduces your appetite as your stomach starts to fill with food. 

Saxenda contains liraglutide which mimics the GLP-1 that is naturally released by your body when you eat. In this way, Saxenda helps to reduce your appetite and help you feel full for longer.

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Does Saxenda work immediately?

Saxenda should start to reduce your appetite on the first day you inject your dose. However, it can take several weeks before you experience any noticeable weight loss on Saxenda. To improve the effectiveness of Saxenda, always combine it with a healthy reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. 

How do I know when Saxenda is working?

The initial effects of Saxenda can be subtle. You may notice a reduction in your appetite on your first day of Saxenda treatment, but it may take longer. Weight loss does not happen immediately. Usually, you would not notice any weight loss until you have been taking Saxenda for a few weeks. Remember, Saxenda is most effective when combined with a low-calorie diet and exercise. If you feel you are not losing enough weight on Saxenda, it may help to improve your diet and exercise.

You should weigh yourself before you start Saxenda and when you have been taking the maximum 3.0mg dose for 12 weeks. At this point, it should be clear if Saxenda is working for you. If you have not lost at least 5% of your initial body weight at this time, Saxenda is likely not an effective treatment for you. 

What should you do if Saxenda is not working?

If you are not experiencing adequate weight loss (5% of your initial body weight) after 12 weeks on the maximum dose of Saxenda, you should speak to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend other more suitable treatment options. You should continue to take Saxenda until you have discussed stopping Saxenda with your doctor.

What are the alternatives to Saxenda?

Saxenda is currently the only weight loss injection available in the UK, but it is hoped that a new injectable treatment, Wegovy, will be made available in 2023. Wegovy works in a similar way to Saxenda, but research suggests it may offer better long-term weight loss results. In addition, Wegovy is a weekly injection, rather than a daily injection like Saxenda, which may suit some patients more. 

Orlistat (Xenical) is a weight loss pill. It works by interfering with the digestion and absorption of fat in the food you eat. Currently, there are no clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of Saxenda and orlistat. However, data from does suggest that patients are similarly satisfied with the results of both orlistat and Saxenda. Orlistat has an average rating of 7.3/10 from 360 reviews and Saxenda has an average rating of 7.5/10 from 1,362 reviews. 

If you are severely obese weight loss surgery may be something to consider. Surgery carries significant risks, so it is generally only offered to patients with a BMI over 40, or people with a BMI over 35 if they have certain co-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. There are various different approaches to weight loss surgery, but they typically involve reducing the size of the stomach. This makes you feel full more quickly, but also reduces the absorption of food. 

Is Saxenda safe?

Saxenda is considered a safe weight loss treatment and it has been approved for use in the UK. However, as with all medications, Saxenda does carry a risk of side effects. Saxenda may also be less suitable for people with certain medical conditions or medication regimes. To ensure Saxenda is as safe as possible, always disclose your health conditions and current treatments to the prescribing doctor. You should always read the patient information leaflet before taking any medication. 

It is important to note that Saxenda should not be taken whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. Saxenda is a relatively new drug and therefore, the safety of Saxenda during pregnancy or breastfeeding is unknown.

What are the common side effects of Saxenda?

Common side effects of Saxenda, affecting up to 10% of people, include headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. These side effects usually disappear within a few days of weeks. Please see the patient information leaflet for a full list of side effects.

How does Saxenda work for diabetes?

Saxenda contains liraglutide which is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. Liraglutide for diabetes is sold under the brand name Victoza, rather than Saxenda. The liraglutide in Victoza mimics the GLP-1 hormone in your body. 

When you eat, your body naturally produces GLP-1. GLP-1 is involved in regulating your appetite, but GLP-1 also causes the pancreas to produce more insulin. Insulin is an important hormone that helps to store excess glucose (sugar) in the form of glycogen in the liver. 

When you eat, your GLP-1 increases in anticipation of the increased glucose levels from your food. This increases insulin production, which increases the storage of glucose in the liver. In this way, liraglutide can help to control blood sugar in patients with diabetes. 

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