A large-scale international clinical trial has indicated that once-weekly treatment with semaglutide, a drug usually used to treat type 2 diabetes, is associated with significant weight loss.
The study included over 1900 adults with obesity who did not have diabetes. Participants were divided into two groups: one group received a once-weekly dose of semaglutide while the other group received a placebo. Both groups were also enrolled in a lifestyle intervention to help increase physical activity, reduce calories, and maintain motivation. In the semaglutide group, 35% of participants lost at least one fifth (20%) of their body weight, and the vast majority (86.4%) lost 5% or more of their body weight. The average amount of weight lost in the semaglutide group over the 68-week trial was almost 34 pounds, while the placebo group lost only about 6 pounds.
Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone that helps regulate appetite and food intake. Taking semaglutide causes patients to feel less hunger and consume fewer calories. Side effects of semaglutide were relatively mild and included gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and diarrhea. Semaglutide received FDA approval in 2021 for chronic weight management. Additional clinical trials, called the STEP trials, are ongoing and have shown promising results.
Obesity is a serious and worsening global health crisis that is associated with many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. The American Heart Association has identified obesity as a major cardiovascular risk factor that increases the likelihood of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and more. In particular, abdominal obesity has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease separate from body mass index. Given the promising results of the STEP trials, semaglutide’s approval and use may make a marked difference in improving the health of those affected by obesity.