For those struggling with obesity or being overweight, trying to shed pounds and keep them off can be frustrating. With the constant yo-yo-ing and cyclical weight loss from dieting and ultimate weight gain, once normal habits are resumed, it’s easy to feel like nothing will ever work. However, there is hope on the horizon in the form of two diabetes drugs that have proven effective as weight loss tools when used in combination with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. They are called Tirzepatide and Semaglutide, both are type 2 diabetes drugs, and both resulted in weight loss for patients suffering from obesity. This blog will cover what obesity is, when fat cells are formed and the effectiveness and side effects of Tirzepatide and Semaglutide.
What Classifies as Obesity?
Obesity is classified as those with a body mass index or BMI that is 30.0 or higher. A healthy weight is someone with a BMI of 18.5 to <25 and an overweight range is 25.0 to <30. The BMI calculation uses your height and weight to determine what a healthy range should be but it’s important to note that other factors should be considered regarding BMI and obesity, such as ethnicity and muscle mass.
3 Major Causes of Obesity
The National Library of Medicine reported that in 2016, nearly 30% of adults living in the United States were categorized as obese, and now that number is up to nearly half of the population, at 41%. While many think that obesity is due to one’s lifestyle choices, there’s mounting evidence to support other reasons. Of course, diet and exercise play a role in one’s weight but there are aspects entirely outside of someone’s control that contribute to weight gain.
- Medical Conditions
Those with medical conditions like depression or other mental illnesses often require pharmaceuticals that contribute to weight gain; particularly antidepressants and antipsychotics are known to cause weight gain.
- Environmental Factors
The environmental factors of not only where one is born, but to which family, play an important
role in obesity and weight gain. Poor knowledge of nutrition, the neighborhood one lives in and its proximity to stores with nutrient-rich foods, as well as the lifestyle/diet of the family are all contributing factors of obesity. In addition, new research suggests the calories-in-calories-out formula doesn’t work for all people. Further, there are many chemicals that contribute to weight gain, and they are found nearly everywhere in our environment. These chemicals are called obesogens. Obesogens are hormones and pesticides found in conventional meat and produce, plastic packaging, household cleaners and additives in processed foods. Body R-N-R advocates for clean living with purchasing organic food and using all natural products as much as possible, and as the budget allows.
There are dozens of genes linked to weight distribution and fat storage. One gene being studied extensively is called the FTO gene. People with the FTO gene have a 20-30% higher chance of obesity. Further, Dr. David Ludwig led a study that shows that over-eating during pregnancy can lead to childhood obesity as measured at age 12. This study indicates that the mother’s eating habits can possibly influence the genetics of the child. However, it is also quite likely that poor eating habits have continued throughout the child’s development, as poor choices were likely offered in the home.
When Exactly are Our Fat Cells Established and Are They Set for Life?
The National Institute of Health states the number of fat cells in the body are “set” or determined during the teen years and remains constant throughout adulthood. These findings may explain why it is harder for some people to loss weight and keep it off. As adults, we gain or lose weight through changes in the size of fat cells, not the number. Whereas children may put on extra weight by increasing the number of fat cells. Consequently, it is important for parents to provide a strong foundation in terms of eating habits and food choices during the formative years.
Let’s Review Tirzepatide & Semaglutide: Repurposed Drugs
“Researchers noted that diabetics taking either of Tirzepatide and Segmalutide, both glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists, lost weight. Thus, research trials were conducted on those with obesity.” USA Today
How Does Tirzepatide Work for Weight Loss?
Tirzepatide is in the glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist class of drugs, meaning it antagonizes GLP-1, the hormone responsible for blood sugar regulation and the feeling of fullness. Tirzepatide essentially makes the patient “sense” when they are full sooner, and therefore caloric intake is lessened. Tirzepatide is administered by a syringe into the subcutaneous layer of tissue once a week. There are a range of doses, starting low and working up to higher doses for purportedly, more benefit.
What Are the Benefits of Tirzepatide for Weight Loss?
The studies showed more weight loss with Tirzepatide than diet alone, with some patients losing as much as 21% of their total body weight. The studies were conducted in people with a BMI of 30 or >. Readers should note that the studies were not done in those with a lower BMI with less weight to lose. Too, the study was conducted over three years, thus these drugs are not a quick fix for weight loss.
What about Side Effects of Tirzepatide?
Tirzepatide may be one of the most effective drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity, but it does come with side effects. At least 5% of patients using Tirzepatide reported nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, stomach aches, and indigestion. Another other side effect found on the label is “decreased appetite”, however, for those trying to lose weight, this is a benefit. The side effects of Tirzepatide mean that those with stomach or bowel issues such as IBS or IBS-D generally don’t respond well.
Slimming Down with Diets and GLP-1 receptor agonist
How Does Semaglutide Work for Weight Loss?
Semaglutide works similarly to Tirzepatide, as a GLP-1 receptor agonist, acting as the two hormones that control blood sugar levels and are responsible for sending signals to the brain when the body is full. Given as a weekly injection, Semaglutide increases the body’s production of insulin which is a hormone the pancreas produces that helps regulate blood sugar.
What Are the Benefits of Semaglutide for Weight Loss?
Researchers have found those taking Semaglutide to lose great amounts of weight due to the drug’s appetite suppressing effect. Both Semaglutide and Tirzepatide work similarly, but Semaglutide has been shown to mainly decrease the patient’s appetite.
The study of Semaglutide again involved participants with a BMI >30 and was conducted over 68 weeks. The Semaglutide study group lost about 15% of body weight, as opposed to 21% in the study of Tirzepatide. Both studies prescribed exercise and a reduced calorie diet.
What Are the Side Effects of Semaglutide?
Similar to Tirzepatide, Semaglutide comes with reported side effects. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain were all reported as well as heartburn and burping which are common signs of ingestion.
(On a personal note, Alisa tried Semaglutide and was not able to tolerate the side effects of abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and heartburn.)
Which Drug Is Better for Those Wanting to Lose Weight?
Semaglutide and Tirzepatide both work as GLP-1 receptor agonists and carry a similar side effect profile which seemed to affect a similar number of participants; therefore, it would be easy to think they are equally effective. However, of the Studies conducted, Tirzepatide yielded a 21% body fat reduction as opposed to 15% with Semaglutide, and again both studies included a diet and exercise program, although details of the programs are not revealed.
During clinical trials of GLP-1 receptor agonists, it was noted that the diabetic patients were losing weight. Weight loss is a wonderful side effect for most people. Thus, further studies were conducted on obese-non-diabetics, and again impressive weight loss results were noted. A bigger percentage of body weight was lost with Tirzepatide, than with Semaglutide. However, it is possible that Semaglutide may work better for some people and Tirzepatide for others.
At Body R-N-R we approach either medication with caution, as neither is approved by the FDA, although here in the Phoenix Metro area it seems to be easy enough to find practitioners willing to prescribe both for off-label usage; as rumor has it taking these drugs is all the rage. We believe they can be helpful adjuncts to a weight-loss program that consists of making healthier choices as opposed to just eating less of all the things you love. Our concern is, that unless healthier habits are adopted you will regain the weight as soon as you stop doing the injections, as it will take more ice cream and pie to quell the craving…
In summary, we implore those using these medications to not eat less but switch to eating more healthy foods. Such lifestyle changes will not only impact you but the younger generation around you.