The purported benefits of new weight loss medications may be more limited in scope than many may think.
Popular weight loss drugs, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, appear to lose their efficacy after about a year. Health experts have identified several reasons why the effects of these medications might stall within the body and ways to break through the plateau.
Semaglutide-based drugs mimicking the hormone released when food is consumed — GLP-1 — have been heralded as a groundbreaking weight loss solution by a number of specialists who focus on obesity. The drugs can curb a person’s appetite and slow the passage of food through the digestive tract, helping them to lose weight and lower their risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
As extensively covered by The Dallas Express, obesity is considered one of the most critical public health issues faced by Americans today. Nearly 100 million adults and around 15 million children in the United States are considered clinically obese.
Medical professionals are now finding that after roughly 60 weeks, drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy begin to lose their effectiveness.
“Initially, with weight loss, when you significantly decrease energy intake, the body will get energy needs through other sources such as glycogen. This triggers weight loss. Over time, as you lose weight, your metabolism will slow down to compensate,” said Dr. Jason Ng, an endocrinologist at the University of Pittsburgh, according to Medical News Today.
Weight loss can stagnate when a person’s metabolism matches their food intake. For this reason, Ng advised breaking through the plateau by eating less while increasing physical activity.
Dr. Mir Ali, medical director at the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center, suggested that doctors prescribing GLP-1 medications can try to avoid the plateau by starting their patients at the lowest dose and then gradually increasing it until they achieve weight loss. However, this strategy also has limits.
“Once you reach a maximum dose, you can’t go any further than that,” said Ali, per Medical News Today.
Newly FDA-approved Zepbound, also known as Mounjaro, has a different active ingredient — tirzepatide — and mimics two different hormones, which could prove more effective at avoiding a weight loss plateau. Nonetheless, the long-term effects of taking this medication have not yet been revealed.
Ali recommended that patients taking GLP-1 drugs manage their expectations and not fret if the pace at which they lose weight slows.
“My advice to them is to try to focus on doing the right things — eating healthier, exercising — and not weight. You know, the goal is to get you to have better health, not necessarily focus on a number. Maybe the scale isn’t changing as much as they’d hoped, but their body composition is changing, their clothes are fitting better, they’re feeling better, their health is improving,” he said.