Written on July 30, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Ozempic® (semaglutide) is a medication administered through a weekly injection, initially designed to aid in the management of type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, it has proven to be successful in facilitating weight loss among individuals categorized as "overweight" or "obese." While blood sugar levels may start to decline within the first week of use, it typically takes four to five weeks to reach steady state levels with Ozempic®. The duration and clinical effectiveness of the medication can vary among individuals, influenced by various factors unique to each person. Before starting Ozempic®, one should consider their health condition, follow dosage instructions, and discuss the option with their healthcare provider.
Ozempic® works in three ways.
First, it activates the production of insulin in the pancreas. Insulin serves “to regulate the body’s energy supply by balancing micronutrient levels during the fed state. Insulin is critical for transporting intracellular glucose to insulin-dependent cells/tissues, such as liver, muscle, and adipose tissue.” Put simply, insulin transports the sugars we get from our diet to the body, specifically to the parts that need sugar to function.
Second, Ozempic® reduces the amount of glucose that the liver produces. Insulin signals the liver to store excess glucose as glycogen, a form of sugar. Excessive insulin in the body can prompt the liver to produce an excessive amount of glycogen, resulting in elevated levels of sugar in the bloodstream, which impacts diabetes.
Third, it slows down the process in which your stomach empties so that a person feels “full” for a longer period of time and overall appetite decreases.
This medication is designed to be taken safely long-term.
So, how quickly does Ozempic® work?
It is reported that: “Your blood glucose (sugar) levels should start to fully decline within the first week after you start using Ozempic® (semaglutide) at your regular maintenance dose. However, the full effect can take 8 weeks or longer, as this is a long-acting medication that is injected only once per week. You will start with lower doses for the first 4 weeks of treatment to help lower side effects, but this is not an effective dose to lower blood sugar over the long-term… Your results may be different from other patients, so check with your doctor if you have a concern about your blood sugar levels.”
The manufacturer reports that “it takes 4 to 5 weeks of once-weekly administration with Ozempic® to reach steady state,” meaning “the time during which the concentration of the drug in the body stays consistent. In other words, steady state is when the rate of the drug going into your body is equal to the rate of drug elimination.”
While it generally takes four to five weeks to achieve steady-state levels with Ozempic®, the clinical effectiveness of the medication can differ among individuals and may require more time. This variation can be influenced by various factors unique to each person, including age, weight, body fluid levels, concurrent medications, kidney or liver function, and other medical conditions. Additionally, the duration may be extended depending on how quickly you can reach your final maintenance dose. Your doctor, being familiar with your medical history, is the best source of information regarding your individual response time to Ozempic®.
Despite not being FDA-approved for weight loss, Ozempic® is commonly taken as a weight loss medication. New York City-based endocrinologist Dr. Rekha Kumar is quoted on the topic: “People are talking about them because there is a trend of celebrities and influencers increasingly turning to off-label use of GLP-1 medications like Ozempic® for weight loss by people who are not obese or diabetic.”
So why is it used as a weight loss medication? Ozempic®'s active ingredient, semaglutide, is FDA-approved as a weight loss drug under the brand name Wegovy®. Dr. Kumar explains that Wegovy® uses a higher dose of semaglutide compared to Ozempic® and was curated for treating obesity, and research has “indicated that once-weekly doses of 2.4 mg of semaglutide could reduce body weight when combined with lifestyle changes.”
“Generally, it takes a few weeks to start seeing the effects of weight loss from Ozempic®,” explains Dr. Kumar, “The dose is gradually raised every four weeks to lessen the likelihood of side effects,” says Seltzer. “Once the dose that causes appetite suppression sufficient to cause a calorie deficit is achieved, weight loss happens quickly.”
Before starting Ozempic®, one should take the following under consideration:
The weight management process necessitates frequent meetings with a healthcare provider. In the beginning, your HCP will examine your medical background and pertinent laboratory tests might be requested to assess the suitability of weight loss medication or overall health.
In the following appointment, test results are analyzed, and a personalized care plan is devised according to your health and weight objectives.
This plan encompasses lifestyle suggestions and may or may not also incorporate the utilization of prescription weight loss medication. Then, periodic follow-ups are arranged with your healthcare provider to evaluate your advancement, monitor medication tolerance (if relevant), and make any necessary adjustments to the care plan.
Learn more about the Everlywell GLP-1 weight loss program (Weight Care+).
In conclusion, Ozempic® (semaglutide) has proven to be a versatile medication designed to aid in the management of type 2 diabetes. Though it is not approved by the FDA for weight loss, it has also shown effectiveness in facilitating weight loss among individuals categorized as "overweight" or "obese."