Ozempic has been thought for the past few months to be Hollywood’s hottest weight loss drug, with hashtag #ozempic having over 450 million views on TikTok. Elon Musk credited significant weight loss to the medication on Twitter, and Mindy Kaling has been rumored to be hosting “Ozempic parties.”
But unless it’s being used long term for serious health problems, the once-a-week injection might lead to weight gain in the long term.
Although Ozempic is specifically for those with Type 2 diabetes, it is commonly prescribed off-label to help those who deal with obesity lose weight. Ozempic is the brand name for semaglutide, which is also sold as Wegovy and variations like Mounjaro.
Alicia Allen, registered dietician and director of Metabolic and Nutrition Services at St. Mark’s Hospital, emphasized the good these medications can do when used correctly.
“We find it a very nice, powerful tool to help kind of give people some feedback in terms of eating the wrong foods,” she said.
For people whose weight causes or comes with medical problems, increased dieting and exercise are not enough. Although these lifestyle changes are important, medications like Ozempic and Wegovy “help people to make those changes a little bit more sustainable,” Allen said.
Medical problems that might lead a patient to consider these medications include high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea and others, according to nurse practitioner Elizabeth Hanna, who has a doctorate in nursing and specializes in bariatric surgery.
Hanna said issues arise when people use the medications on and off. They’re typically supposed to be used lifelong, so stopping can lead to an “overshoot effect,” in which people gain all the weight they lost back, and then some.
“Basically, your body thinks there’s a famine,” Hanna said. “So it starts to prepare for the next famine.” She said she regularly sees patients who were not overweight to begin with, but developed a weight issue after using weight loss drugs.
This can also be the effect of yo-yo dieting, an inconsistent and unhealthy dieting pattern that results in weight loss and regain.
Some people can stop Ozempic and keep weight off, but Hanna said they are few and far between. It requires intense habit and routine.
“I have this one patient who’s been able to keep it off, but he eats the exact same thing every day,” Hanna said.
Drugs like Ozempic are not without their benefits. Allen noted that they are especially helpful for people with body mass indexes between 28 and 35, who might not qualify for bariatric surgery but still deal with weight-related health concerns.
“I love the fact that we have this as kind of a bridge to help people get to a little bit lower weight and help them improve their health conditions,” she said.
But both Allen and Hanna urge that it is meant for those with serious health concerns who are in it for the long haul.