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Orlistat vs Saxenda: What's the difference between these weight loss medicines?

Here's what you need to know.

Orlistat vs Saxenda: Unveiling The Differences | Juniper

Weight loss isn't always as simple as it seems. While the common equation of consuming lower calories and increasing exercise has been floating around for years, it's often just not enough to lose weight and keep it off.

It's no wonder that weight loss medicines have become so popular over the last few years. But it can be tricky to know if and when medication is the right approach for you.

That's why we've put together everything you need to know about Orlistat and Saxenda — 2 of the top weight loss medications on the market today. Keep reading to discover how they work, their possible side effects as well as some helpful tips on how to lose weight holistically.

What is Orlistat?

Orlistat is a weight loss medication that is available in both prescription and non-prescription forms [1]. It's generally recommended to take Orlistat alongside a low-calorie and low-fat diet, as well as an exercise program.

The primary goal of Orlistat is to support weight loss by limiting the amount of fat absorbed by the body. Taking Orlistat prevents the absorption of dietary fats, and contributes to calorie reduction, which can help you to reach your weight management goals [2].

This weight loss medicine is typically prescribed to people trying to lose weight and may also be navigating other health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or those at high risk for heart disease.

Orlistat is primarily prescribed to those who fall into the overweight category and need a helping hand slimming down, as well as those who have already shed the pounds but need some help maintaining their current, healthy weight.

How does Orlistat work?

Orlistat is a widely used medication for weight loss. It works by inhibiting the process of lipase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down dietary fats [3].

By interfering with lipase activity, Orlistat reduces the amount of fat absorbed by the body. Instead of being digested and absorbed by the intestines, the undigested fat passes through the gastrointestinal tract and is excreted from the body as stool.

Taking Orlistat helps individuals consume fewer calories from fat, aiding in weight management.

Orlistat is typically taken orally, usually up to 3 times a day, in conjunction with consuming meals containing fat [4].

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda is a prescription medication that aids weight loss and is typically recommended for individuals classified as overweight or obese.

When using Saxenda for weight loss efforts, it's generally most effective when combined with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

It is usually prescribed to individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. In some cases, it may also be prescribed to those with a BMI of 27 or higher if they have other weight-related conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or sleep apnoea.

Saxenda is administered in the form of an injection, and it comes in a pen device for convenient and accurate dosage. The injection can be self-administered in the stomach area, thigh, or upper arm, offering flexibility and ease of use.

How does Saxenda work?

Saxenda contains the active drug liraglutide, which belongs to a group of drugs called GLP-1 agonists. This is similar to a naturally produced hormone, which helps regulate hunger and control blood sugar, insulin levels, and digestion.

It works by imitating the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) hormone, which helps regulate appetite, promotes feelings of fullness, and reduces food intake [5].

Saxenda effectively lowers appetite to aid weight loss. It's most effective when combined with healthy eating and an exercise regime.

Is Saxenda the same as Orlistat?

Both Saxenda and Orlistat are types of weight loss medicines, but they operate in different ways. Let's take a look at some of the key differences:

  • Orlistat is taken as a capsule, whereas Saxenda is an injectable medication [6].
  • Orlistat works by reducing the fat absorption of the body, allowing fat to be passed straight through the digestive system. On the other hand, Saxenda uses a hormone to reduce appetite.
  • Orlistat is taken 3 times a day with meals, while Saxenda is taken once a day.
  • Orlistat is used with an individualised low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise program to help people lose weight, while Saxenda is generally used with a doctor-approved exercise regime and reduced-calorie healthy diet, and the program will generally include working towards behavioural changes.

It's also important to note that because Orlistat and Saxenda work in very different ways, the most common side effects associated with these 2 medications are quite different.

That's why it's essential to have an open conversation with your doctor about exactly what should be expected before taking either of these weight loss medicines.

What are the side effects of Saxenda?

There are some common side effects of Saxenda, but the good news is that they're generally mild and will ease over time. Many common side effects occur during the first few weeks of use as the body adjusts.

Here are some of the most common side effects of Saxenda:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Injection site reaction
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Headache
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Change in enzyme (lipase) levels in your blood [8]

As with almost all medications, there is the risk of more serious side effects, however, it is rare. Saxenda can have serious side effects such as liver problems, especially for those with a history of pancreatitis, and possible thyroid tumours, including cancer. It may also lead to acute pancreatitis, serious allergic reactions, and gallbladder problems.

If you suspect you're experiencing one of the more serious side effects of Saxenda, you should seek the help of a medical professional as soon as you can.

What are the side effects of Orlistat?

There are also some common side effects of Orlistat. These side effects are also generally mild and will pass over time or by reducing the amount of fat in your diet.

Some of the mild side effects include:

  • An increase in bowel movements
  • Changes to bowel function
  • Fatty or oily stool
  • Oily rectal spotting
  • Intestinal gas with discharge
  • A feeling of needing to have a bowel movement right away
  • Poor bowel control [9]

It is possible to have a more serious reaction to Orlistat too, so if you notice you're having trouble breathing or swallowing, a rash, or dizziness, it's best to visit your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible.

It's also important to note that if you're experiencing severe pain with your bowel movements or are consistently producing pale stools, it might be time to see a doctor.

How to approach weight loss in a sustainable way

There are some common strategies to approach weight loss, like decreasing calories and upping the exercise. But, we all know that sometimes that just isn't enough. And that's where weight loss medications coupled with lifestyle changes can come in.

With Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme, you'll have access to healthcare professionals, dietitians, lifestyle coaches, and health tracking as well as weight loss medication that's scientifically proven to support sustainable weight loss.

With a holistic approach and a community of like-minded women to back you, Juniper helps you lose weight and keep it off, helping you feel you're best, from the inside, out.