Understanding Ozempic: How This GLP-1 Agonist Impacts Your Health

Understanding Ozempic: How This GLP-1 Agonist Impacts Your Health

Introduction to Ozempic

We can hardly avoid hearing about Ozempic – it flashes across our Twitter feeds, Instagram, and other social media. This celebrity, or that celebrity is taking it and looks fabulous. This woman who was 52 took it and had a baby, and whatever other magical mystical, and often non-peer reviewed, factoids that can be fed into the social media sphere. Paid influencers today propagate advertisements masked as “interesting facts” and “chats with doctors” that are designed to sway public opinion. Let us try and unpack this and work out whether Ozempic provides a safe, reliable way to lose a few pounds and live a long healthy life.


How Does Ozempic Work?

When we eat food, we need to eat a certain amount before we feel “satiated”. The feeling of satiation is a combination of physical factors (when your stomach is completely full, it cannot fill more), physiological factors (hormones, and blood sugar levels that should turn off the urge to eat), and psychological factors (we should know how much we really need to eat, but we delude and trick ourselves into eating too much or too little).

After eating a meal, sugars are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. This raises blood glucose. While these sugars are increasing our blood glucose, the body is secreting enzymes in the stomach and intestines that convert carbohydrates into sugar, which will also be absorbed and then contribute to blood glucose levels. The body releases insulin, a hormone that tells cells to absorb glucose and do something with it. If the cells cannot use it for something useful, like helping you run, walk, garden, chop wood, chase a kid around, etc, it will start converting the sugar into fats, which are stored. Inside your gastrointestinal tract, there are cells that produce a glucagon-like peptide called GLP-1. This peptide binds to GLP-1 receptors in cells in the pancreas, stomach, kidney, heart, and in the brain. When it does so, it stimulates insulin secretion (lowering blood sugar), slows the stomach down, and creates a sense of fullness resulting in reduced food intake.

So GLP-1 binds to GLP-1 receptors and makes you feel full and satisfied and helps lower your blood sugar! However, this hormone only survives a few minutes, so if you do not get the message in this amount of time, you may end up eating too much, pushing your blood sugar sky high, and gaining weight. Our objective is to avoid this at all costs.


The Role of Agonists in Weight Management

In pharmaceutical chemistry, we refer to a chemical that mimics a natural communication molecule and binds to a receptor protein as an agonist. In many cases, an agonist can be found that will bind to a receptor, triggering an effect, but the shape of the agonist is such that the enzymes in the body that would normally remove the signal molecule are unable to remove or remove the agonist slowly. This means that we can trigger an effect by adding a chemical(drug), and this effect, in the case of GLP-1 receptor agonists, primarily mimics the effects of GLP-1 – you feel full, your stomach does not empty as fast, your insulin increases, and you should consequently eat less food, and this, in turn, would result in weight loss.

Ozempic is such a chemical, and a significant amount of published and anecdotal research suggests that it has some quite astounding effects on weight loss. The majority of papers do not recommend this as a primary intervention – with exercise, calorie-restricted diet, psychological counselling, and a range of less invasive options being a first choice. However, if the above does not work, it is possible that Ozempic can assist.


Administration and Risks of Ozempic

Ozempic is administered as an injected dose at intervals.

When you arrive on the Ozempic website, the landing page has a very large warning about the risks of Ozempic possibly causing a type of Thyroid cancer. This should be cause for major concern if you are thinking of taking this medication. The process for a drug from laboratory to market takes 10-15 years!! This is expensive (billions of $), and there is a combination of ethical and business considerations that a company has to follow. With any drug, as its life runs past, and patents reach the end of their protective cycle, a drug will find itself becoming a public domain drug, and it can then be manufactured as a generic drug, meaning the inventing company will no longer make the huge profits it did when it had a monopoly due to the patent being valid. It is a useful strategy to find a reason why a drug should not be sold right at the end of its profit cycle/life and release a new “safer” version that can then go through this cycle too. We need not be too cynical about all of this, other than to say that if a drug that is still in its maximum profit phase has a health warning on the landing page about causing cancer…..think carefully about your choices. If you are likely to die of a heart attack in the next year, due to obesity, then living a decade more and possibly getting a gruesome exotic cancer is a good choice. If you on the other hand can manage your weight with a diet and exercise then do so as this course has far fewer side effects.


Considerations for Diet and Lifestyle

It's so important to be mindful of foods to avoid while taking Ozempic. Certain foods, especially those high in sugar and fat, can counteract the benefits of the medication and lead to unwanted side effects. Maintaining a balanced diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables can enhance the effectiveness of Ozempic and support overall health.

Another important consideration is the role of protein supplements. The combination of Ozempic and protein shakes can be beneficial for those looking to manage their weight and maintain muscle mass. Protein shakes, particularly those that are low in sugar and carbohydrates, can complement the appetite-suppressing effects of Ozempic, making it easier to adhere to a calorie-controlled diet.


Long-term Considerations

I like to use the analogy of a vehicle engine. There are bolts inside the engine, and let’s say these are half-inch heads. If we throw a spanner into the engine, there is some chance that it may miraculously find a loose bolt and tighten it in the engine – but it is a spanner and it can bind to many bolts – it could find the wrong one. Or get snarled up in the crankshaft. When we throw random, new, highly reactive chemicals into the human body, and trigger major biochemical changes, we are doing the same thing. It will take decades for us to find out the full effects of many of these chemicals. The field of epigenetics shows that things that influenced a generation that are now largely deceased are still influencing the ways your genes express now – we may find in 2130 that the great grand offspring of people born today have all sorts of problems they would not have had if we did not tinker with receptors we don’t understand yet.

Conclusion

In summary, Ozempic has a place as a GLP-1 agonist in managing types of high-risk diabetes. In some rare cases, it may also be an option for managing obesity.

Author: Dr. G. Cambray

Dr. Garth Cambray

Dr. Cambray has a PhD in applied microbiology and works in several fields including research into products that enhance the human microbiome. He is a beekeeper, gardener, and mushroom cultivator who believes you are what you eat. In this regard, you must pay special attention to the quality of the food and supplements you consume to ensure you can be the best version of yourself.

Reviewed By: Dr. Kevin Huffman

Dr. Kevin Huffman

Dr. Kevin D. Huffman, D.O., is a renowned board-certified bariatric physician dedicated to the treatment of obesity. His expertise has made him a sought-after trainer for healthcare providers, and he founded American Bariatric Consultants to develop protocols and training materials trusted by medical societies, pharmaceutical companies, patients, and hospitals alike. Beyond patient care, Dr. Huffman's influence extends to preparing physicians for board certification, thereby expanding access to this crucial treatment.

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