Written on September 14, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. 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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If you are trying to lose weight or manage your blood sugar, semaglutide may be an option for you. Semaglutide is currently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity. The approval of semaglutide is for use in combination with diet and exercise in both indications.[2-4] If you are wondering what to eat on semaglutide, continue reading to learn more.
Background On Semaglutide
Semaglutide was first FDA-approved in 2017 as a treatment for type 2 diabetes under the brand name Ozempic®. The FDA granted approval in 2019 for Rybelsus®, an oral formulation of semaglutide. In 2021, Wegovy® was FDA-approved for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight and at least one weight-related condition. Semaglutide became the first approved medication for chronic weight management of obesity since 2014.
Semaglutide belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1s, or glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists. Other types of GLP-1s include exenatide and liraglutide. Semaglutide is available as a weekly subcutaneous injection and a daily oral tablet.[2-4] Currently, semaglutide is the only available oral GLP-1 medication.
How Semaglutide Works
GLP-1 medications are known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, incretin mimetics, or GLP-1 analogs. Your body has natural GLP-1 that is released as a response to the foods you eat. GLP-1 is an incretin peptide, or a metabolic hormone, that is distributed by cells in the gastrointestinal tract and different glands as part of the endocrine system (functions including metabolism, growth and development, and sexual function and reproduction).[7,8]
Semaglutide is a GLP-1 analog, meaning it is highly similar to the human form of GLP-1, with a “94% sequence homology.”[2-4] It works by mimicking natural GLP-1 and binding to GLP-1 receptors in the body and activating them. GLP-1 receptors are also located in the brain and, when activated, can impact nerve pathways involved in appetite control.[2-4] Semaglutide can help to reduce blood glucose levels and aid in weight management by[2-4,7]:
- Stimulating insulin secretion from beta cells in the pancreas
- Decreasing calorie or food intake
- Regulating appetite
- Delaying gastric emptying
- Suppressing glucagon secretion (glucagon triggers the liver to break down stored glucose and release it into the bloodstream)
What To Eat When Taking Semaglutide
As stated earlier, semaglutide is approved in combination with diet and exercise.[2-4] A healthy diet and meal plan should be part of the lifestyle changes for therapy with semaglutide.[10,11] A food diary can help track what you eat while you’re on semaglutide.
Here are some tips on what to eat when taking semaglutide[11-13]:
- Eat a healthy diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, with whole grains and fiber
- Select low-fat dairy products such as fat-free milk products, less butter, or low-fat cheese
- Consume a variety of proteins like seafood, lean meats, and poultry or eggs
- Choose unsalted nuts and seeds as healthy snack options for extra protein
- Limit foods and beverages with high or added sugars, saturated fats, and salt
- Avoid alcohol consumption
Other things to consider as part of your diet include[10-11]:
- Eating a healthy diet with an increase in physical activity
- Decreasing the portion sizes of your food choices
- Not skipping breakfast and avoiding eating at night
- Reducing consumption of energy-dense (high-calorie) foods and drinks
Safety Information For Semaglutide
The most common side effects from GLP-1 drugs are gastrointestinal-related, involving nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.[1-4] Additional side effects of semaglutide consist of constipation, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, dizziness, flatulence, gastritis, and dyspepsia. Acute pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, hypoglycemia in type 2 diabetics, acute kidney injury, increased heart rate, and hypersensitivity reactions are safety warnings and precautions with semaglutide.[2-4] Semaglutide has a boxed warning, or serious FDA safety warning, for thyroid C-cell tumors and is not recommended in patients with a personal or family history of certain thyroid tumors and cancers.
Semaglutide And Everlywell
At Everlywell, you can virtually meet with a healthcare provider to discuss your weight loss goals. Everlywell's comprehensive Weight Care+ program connects you with regular one-to-one virtual visits with a licensed clinician. The program also gives you access to GLP-1 prescriptions online, if you qualify. Quarterly at-home lab tests or supplements and lifestyle content with support for related health conditions are also included in the program.
Dulaglutide vs. Semaglutide: Differences and Similarities Between the Two Medications
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- Collins L, Costello RA. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists. [Updated 2023 Jan 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551568/.
- OZEMPIC®- semaglutide injection, solution. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=adec4fd2-6858-4c99-91d4-531f5f2a2d79. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- Wegovy®- semaglutide injection, solution. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=ee06186f-2aa3-4990-a760-757579d8f77b. Accessed August 14, 2023.
- Rybelsus- oral Semaglutide Tablet. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=27f15fac-7d98-4114-a2ec-92494a91da98. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- FDA approves new drug treatment for Chronic Weight Management, first since 2014. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-drug-treatment-chronic-weight-management-first-2014
. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- FDA approves first oral GLP-1 treatment for type 2 diabetes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-oral-glp-1-treatment-type-2-diabetes. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- Alorfi NM, Algarni AS. Clinical impact of semaglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, on obesity management: a review. Clin Pharmacol. 2022;14:61-67. doi: 10.2147/CPAA.S374741
- Endocrine system. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21201-endocrine-system. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, Davies M, Van Gaal LF, Lingvay I, McGowan BM, Rosenstock J, Tran MTD, Wadden TA, Wharton S, Yokote K, Zeuthen N, Kushner RF; STEP 1 study group. once-weekly semaglutide in adults with overweight or obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(11):989-1002. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2032183
- Garvey WT, Mechanick JI, Brett EM, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American College of Endocrinology comprehensive clinical practice guidelines for medical care of patients with obesity. Endocr Pract. 2016;22:Suppl 3:1-203.
- Yumuk V, Tsigos C, Fried M, et al. European guidelines for obesity management in adults. Obes Facts. 2015;8:402-424.
- Healthy eating for a healthy weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html. March 8, 2023. Accessed August 21, 2023.
- My Plate. USDA Food and Nutrition Service. https://myplate-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/2022-01/SSwMP%20Mini-Poster_English_Final2022.pdf. Accessed August 21, 2023.