What is Wegovy?
Wegovy (semaglutide) is a new weight loss drug made by NovoNordisk. It is used to support weight loss in people with a BMI of 30 or more 23 or more if they have a weight-related medical condition such as high blood pressure. Wegovy’s UK launch is expected at the tail end of 2023. However, it has been available in the US for a few years.
Originally, Wegovy was developed as a treatment for people with type 2 diabetes, to allow them to control their blood sugar levels. Ozempic is the result of this original study; when patients showed sustained weight loss during those trials, Wegovy was developed from the same active ingredient, semaglutide.
Clinical trials have shown that treatment with Wegovy has helped people lose significantly more weight than with diet and exercise alone. In the trial, people lost an average of 14.9% of their initial body weight over 68 weeks, which equated to approximately 35lbs (15.8kg) of weight loss.
How Does Wegovy Work?
Wegovy is a type of weight loss medication known as a GLP-1 agonist. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which mimics the GLP-1 hormone in the body. GLP-1 causes the body to produce insulin, which is why semaglutide is also used in the treatment of diabetes.
Wegovy slows down the emptying of the stomach, which helps you feel fuller more quickly. This helps to reduce the amount you eat, which can help you lose weight when combined with diet and exercise.
Order Wegovy from £169
What happens when you eat?
When you eat, the food travels down your oesophagus (food pipe) into your stomach. This causes various hormones to be released. Some of these hormones help to break down the food, some help your body to absorb nutrients from the food and some affect how hungry you feel.
GLP-1 is one of the hormones released when you eat. Its primary purpose is to modulate the release of two other hormones: insulin and glucagon. When you eat, your blood sugar (glucose) increases.
Insulin helps to move the sugar from your blood into your cells where it can be used for energy. Glucagon helps the liver to produce glucose so your blood sugar levels don’t drop too low and your cells can still make the energy they need. The effect on your blood sugar is why GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide are used for the treatment of type-2 diabetes.
GLP-1 agonists, such as Wegovy and Saxenda, are also used for weight loss. When you eat, GLP-1 also helps to slow down the emptying of your stomach. This means that your stomach will hold food for longer which will make you feel more full when you eat. This helps to reduce your appetite, so you eat less food.
Why do we put on weight?
There are lots of different reasons why people put on weight. At a basic level, weight gain is related to consuming more calories than your body can use, but that is not the whole story. We are still finding out more about the mechanisms behind weight gain, but we do know that there are genetic, physiological and psychological factors that play a role.
For many people, hunger can be a huge challenge to contend with when losing weight. Ghrelin is known as the ‘hunger hormone’; when ghrelin levels are high, we feel more hungry. Research has shown that people with obesity may actually be more sensitive to the ghrelin hormone, so they feel a lot more hungry when their ghrelin levels are high.
People who do not struggle with their weight may be less sensitive to ghrelin, and therefore may find it much easier to tolerate hunger. This is just one of many factors that may influence someone’s body weight.
How does Wegovy help people lose weight?
Wegovy primarily supports weight loss by reducing appetite. As coping with hunger is such a common struggle for people when they are trying to lose weight, the reduced appetite from Wegovy can be of real help.
Wegovy slows down the emptying of your stomach so you feel full more quickly and that feeling of fullness (satiety) lasts for longer. This helps to reduce feelings of hunger and appetite, which enables people to eat less food.
There are several alternatives to Wegovy. Most people will try to control their weight with diet and exercise to start with. Some people may find that they are able to achieve a healthy weight with this approach, although a lot of people find that this is not enough.
There are also medical and surgical options for weight loss. The surgical options involve decreasing the size of your stomach. This means that you cannot eat as much food and you will feel full very quickly. This is highly effective, but is usually only recommended for people who are severely overweight (morbid obesity).
Several weight loss drugs are available in the UK. Orlistat (Xenical) is a popular weight loss treatment. It works by preventing the digestion of fat, which stops the body from absorbing the calories contained in the fat. Common side effects or orlistat include diarrhoea and abdominal pain which are usually a consequence of the fat not being absorbed.
Saxenda (liraglutide) has a lot in common with Wegovy. Both Saxenda and Wegovy belong to the same drug class – GLP-1 receptor agonists. Saxenda and Wegovy work in very similar ways, but Saxenda is a daily weight loss injection, whereas Wegovy is only taken once a week. However, the manufacturer of both Saxenda and Wegovy, Novo Nordisk, aims to replace Saxenda with Wegovy, meaning stock is currently limited as Wegovy launches in the UK.
A study has shown that people lose approximately 40% more weight when taking Wegovy than Saxenda. Saxenda and Wegovy side effects are very similar and include constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
Retatrutide belongs to a group of drugs known as tri-agonists, which mimic the effects of three different hormones. Like Wegovy, it acts on the GLP-1 receptor, but it also modulates two others (the GIP and glucagon receptors). This is thought to make it even more effective than Wegovy.
Retatrutide clinical trials are still ongoing. Initial results have shown an average of a 24.2% reduction in body weight over a 48 week period. Retatrutide and other tri-agonists are still in development, but their three-layered approach is expected to make them the most effective weight loss drugs yet.
Wegovy is an effective weight loss treatment that mimics the effects of the GLP-1 hormone in the body. It helps to slow the emptying of the stomach which reduces appetite and helps people to eat less. Clinical trials have shown Wegovy to be a highly effective weight loss treatment, even outperforming Saxenda.
Wegovy is currently being released in the UK. Once available, you can buy Wegovy through our Online Doctor service.
New drugs such as retatrutide, aim to target three different hormone receptors, not just one like Wegovy and Saxenda. These drugs are still in development, but may offer substantial benefits if they come to market in a few years.