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GLP-1 Medications

What are GLP-1 Medications?

GLP-1 (Glucagon-like peptide-1) medications are a type of injectable medication used for the treatment of obesity. These medications work by mimicking the effects of a hormone called GLP-1, which is naturally produced by the intestine in response to food intake. GLP-1 medications are also known as incretin mimetics because they mimic the action of incretin hormones in the body.

Types of GLP-1 Medications

There are several GLP-1 medications available on the market including liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide (Wegovy). These medications are approved specifically for the treatment of obesity.

How do GLP-1 Medications Work?

GLP-1 medications work by:

  • Slowing down the emptying of the stomach, which helps to reduce appetite and promote feelings of fullness.
  • Stimulating the release of insulin from the pancreas, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Reducing the release of glucose from the liver, which can help to lower blood sugar levels.

Who are Ideal Candidates for GLP-1 Medications?

GLP-1 medications are ideal for people with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher, or for those with a BMI of 27 or higher who also have other obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or sleep apnea.

Contraindications for GLP-1 Medications

GLP-1 medications may be contraindicated in people with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2) should not take these medications.

What are the Benefits of GLP-1 Medications for Weight Loss?

The main benefits of GLP-1 medications are:

  • Significant Weight Loss: They can help people to lose a significant amount of weight. In clinical trials, people taking GLP-1 medications for obesity lost an average of 5-15% of their body weight over a period of 6-12 months, which is about 5 times the amount of weight loss through diet and exercise alone.
  • Sustained Weight Loss: This weight loss attained through GLP-1 medications is maintained over the long term in some research studies.
  • Improvement of Comorbidities: GLP-1 medications can also help to improve other health markers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and overall cardiovascular health. In addition, these medications may help to reduce the risk of developing other obesity-related health conditions such as fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and joint problems.

Side-Effects of GLP-1 Medications

GLP-1 medications are generally well-tolerated, but they can cause some side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These side effects usually improve over time, but they can be a barrier to long-term use for some people.


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Please note that the information in this website is an educational resource, and should not be used for decisions about any obesity surgery or management. All such decisions must be made in consultation with a surgeon or your healthcare provider.
  • American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery
  • The American Board of Surgery
  • American Medical Association