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This is how liraglutide works for weight loss

How the breakthrough medication, Liraglutide, can kickstart your weight loss journey.

Liraglutide For Weight Loss: How Does It Work | Juniper

Have you heard a bunch of chatter about weight loss drugs online? Maybe you've heard the terms liraglutide and weight loss used together and wondered what all the fuss was about.

In case you haven't, liraglutide is a weight-loss medication that can be used in combination with lifestyle changes to help people achieve their weight-loss goals. And, it's proven to be particularly helpful if lifestyle changes alone aren't enough to kickstart your weight loss journey.

Are you curious about how these breakthrough weight loss drugs work? We're diving deep into how liraglutide works for weight loss and how much bodyweight you can actually lose to help you make an informed decision on whether this medication is right for you.

What is liraglutide?

Liraglutide (sold under the brand name Saxenda) is a weight loss medication. It's been approved to help people with type 2 diabetes or those who are overweight or obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or over lose weight where diet and exercise alone haven't worked.

Much like other weight loss medications, like semaglutide which is sold as Wegovy, liraglutide is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist which mimics an appetite hormone that's naturally produced in the gut [1].

The GLP-1 receptor agonist works to regulate hunger, and in combination with lifestyle interventions like improving your diet and exercise, it can help you lose weight.

Taking liraglutide causes delayed gastric emptying to help you feel fuller for longer. Plus, it can also help reduce cardiovascular risks such as heart attack and stroke among patients with type 2 diabetes [2].

How does liraglutide work?

The liraglutide injection belongs to a group of medications called incretin mimetics, which work to help the pancreas release the correct amount of insulin when blood sugar levels are too high. Insulin helps move sugar from the blood into other body tissues which is then used for energy [3].

For people with type 2 diabetes or for overweight or obese patients, liraglutide can also help treat high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Liraglutide possesses the same structural similarities to the glucagon-like peptide 1 incretin hormone, which secrete the GLP 1 receptor agonists in response to food intake. It triggers a series of processes including [4]:

  • Delayed gastric emptying
  • Appetite suppression
  • Increased insulin release

By acting on the GLP 1 receptor agonists, liraglutide works on the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract to suppress your appetite, slow down stomach emptying, and increase a sense of fullness in response to food intake.

Is liraglutide safe for weight loss?

Liraglutide is safe for weight loss in combination with lifestyle changes, like a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Although there are other medications on the market for weight loss, liraglutide specifically has been proven to be effective for those with obesity and diabetes who also have an increased cardiovascular risk [5].

How is liraglutide administered?

Liraglutide is administered as a daily subcutaneous injection which comes in a pre-filled pen to inject under the skin. The injection site can be in your stomach area, thigh, or upper arm and can be taken with or without food around the same time every day [3].

Liraglutide comes with patient instructions, so read and follow them carefully and be sure to ask your doctor any questions you might have before starting your weight loss journey with liraglutide.

Your healthcare provider will likely give you a dosing schedule that best suits your unique health goals. The liraglutide dose schedule is designed to minimise gastrointestinal symptoms while giving you the support you need to lose excess weight.

The dose starts at 0.6mg, and providing you have no side effects and tolerate the medication well, your dose is increased weekly until you reach the peak 3mg maintenance dose [7].

How much weight can you lose with liraglutide?

Losing weight looks a little different for everyone. Aside from the medication taking effect, the lifestyle modifications you make in combination with weight loss medication can influence how much you lose weight.

But, there have been various studies evaluating the effectiveness of liraglutide on weight loss, so let's unpack what the research says.

One study showed that patients only participating in diet and exercise programs lost 5% of their body weight on average. On the other hand, for those prescribed liraglutide in combination with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, participants lost 10% of their body weight [8].

Another study with obese patients showed that not only did liraglutide help them lose weight, but participants reported reduced food intake and lower levels of hunger which reduced their food cravings and prompted weight loss [9].

A randomised control trial of 564 obese patients also showed that those taking the 3.0mg maintenance dose of liraglutide produced more significant weight loss than lifestyle modifications alone which showed positive effects in both the short-term and long-term [10].

Compared with the placebo group in another trial of 3731 patients, those in the liraglutide treatment group lost 7.4% of their body weight compared to the placebo group, who lost 3% of their body weight at 56 weeks [11].

What are the side effects of liraglutide?

Like all medications, side effects are possible, especially as your body adjusts to the liraglutide treatment. The most common side effects are [12]:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Injection site reactions
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the stomach area

There are also other possible more serious side effects, but these are far less common, including blurred vision, dizziness, pounding in the ears, and slow or fast heartbeat.

Allergic reactions are also possible when taking liraglutide, so be sure to seek medical attention and let your doctor know if you experience any adverse events [12].

Who should not use liraglutide?

When it comes to taking liraglutide, there are a few things to keep in mind aside from the possible side effects. There are certain drug interactions and certain medical conditions that prevent you from taking liraglutide.

You shouldn't use liraglutide if you [7]:

  • Have had serious allergic reactions to any of the ingredients contained in Saxenda
  • You are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • You have had a personal or family history of thyroid cancer or thyroid tumours. In animal studies, liraglutide and all the medicines that work like liraglutide have caused thyroid tumours including medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) — while the relevance in humans is low, it can't be completely ruled out

If you're considering taking liraglutide as part of your weight loss journey, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, especially if [7]:

  • You are taking another glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist medication
  • You have severe stomach problems such as slowed gastric emptying or problems digesting food
  • You have or have previously had kidney disease, kidney problems or problems with your liver or pancreas
  • You have or have previously had depression, suicidal thoughts or mental health issues
  • You are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, as it is unknown if Saxenda passes into your breast milk

Can I get Saxenda on NHS?

Saxenda was previously only available through private prescriptions. However, it is now available on the NHS as long as you meet certain criteria. These include:

  • A body mass index of 35 or more or a BMI of 32.5 (depending on your background and other lifestyle factors).
  • Non-diabetic patients with high blood sugar (a.k.a pre-diabetes).
  • Patients with weight-related medical problems who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also advises that this prescription-only medication can only be prescribed through a specialist weight management service and in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity too.

The NHS guidelines also state that these weight loss and weight management medications can only be prescribed for up to 2 years [13].

If you want to kickstart your weight loss journey, it's important to look beyond just weight loss drugs and find a holistic weight management program that helps you achieve sustainable weight loss results through medication, following a balanced diet and increased physical activity.

Juniper's Weight Reset Programme combines the weight loss medication Wegovy (another GLP-1 receptor agonist like Saxenda) to give your body a biological reset that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and lowers your body's set point. This helps you lose your initial body weight and keep excess weight off for good.

We also know that to achieve a healthy weight and attain sustainable weight loss, you need to make sustainable lifestyle changes you can stick to for years to come.

Our clinical team of healthcare professionals, health coaches and dietitians also help you lose weight by giving you all the tools and support needed to lose weight and keep it off. Our health coaches guide you with helpful and actionable advice to help you make the necessary lifestyle changes, like sticking to a reduced-calorie diet and increasing your physical activity levels.

Let's face it: weight loss and chronic weight management can be really difficult to achieve for a lot of people, particularly if you have weight-related medical problems too.

That's why breakthrough medications have been approved to not only induce weight loss in the short term but, in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, can help you achieve a healthy weight in the long term.