Blog/How Does Semaglutide Help You Lose Weight?
Agile Team | 2/12/2024 | 5 min read

How Does Semaglutide Help You Lose Weight?

Learn what semaglutide is, the hormone it mimics and how it helps you lose weight

women measuring her hips with a measuring tape

In the world of weight loss solutions, pharmaceutical advancements have paved the way for innovative medications like semaglutide to emerge as a promising option. We’ll dive into the mechanisms and qualifications for semaglutide use, as well as how it compares to tirzepatide and shed some light on how semaglutide actually helps you lose weight.

What is semaglutide?

In order to better understand how semaglutide works with your body to help you lose weight, we need to first start with what it is. Semaglutide belongs to a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. Originally developed to manage type 2 diabetes, the medication has garnered attention for its weight loss benefits. This injectable medication mimics the action of a natural hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which regulates blood sugar levels and appetite.

What is the difference between semaglutide and tirzepatide?

With Eli Lilly’s recent release of Zepbound, many are curious how they differ. Both semaglutide and tirzepatide are GLP-1 receptor agonists with potential weight loss effects, but they differ in their molecular structures and dosing schedules. Semaglutide is a fully human GLP-1 analog, while tirzepatide is a novel dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and GLP-1 receptor agonist.

Breaking it down further

That’s a lot of medical jargon. Let's break down what a "full human GLP-1 analog" and a "novel dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide" mean a little more.

Full human GLP-1 analog

Imagine your body has a messaging system that tells it when to stop eating. This system is controlled by a hormone called GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1). Think of GLP-1 as the messenger that signals your brain to feel full after a meal. However, sometimes this messaging system doesn’t work as effectively as it should, often seen in people struggling with weight issues or conditions like diabetes.

To help improve this messaging system, scientists developed semaglutide. It's like a copycat version of the natural GLP-1 hormone but made in a lab to work exactly like the real thing. So, when someone takes semaglutide, it helps their body receive those "full" signals more effectively, making them feel less hungry and potentially helping them lose weight.

One notable difference lies in their dosing frequencies. Semaglutide is typically administered once weekly, while tirzepatide may require more frequent dosing, such as once daily or once weekly, depending on the specific treatment regimen. Additionally, clinical trials have shown that both medications can lead to significant weight loss, although individual responses may vary.

Novel dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and GLP-1 Receptor agonist (that’s a doozy)

Now, let's talk about tirzepatide. This medication is a bit different from semaglutide. Instead of just mimicking the GLP-1 hormone, tirzepatide is like a two-in-one package deal. It not only acts like GLP-1 but also targets another hormone called GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide).

GIP is another hormone involved in controlling blood sugar levels and appetite. So, tirzepatide works by targeting both GLP-1 and GIP, kind of like having two messengers instead of one to help regulate hunger and blood sugar levels. This dual action might offer some unique benefits compared to medications that only target GLP-1, but it also means tirzepatide might work a bit differently in the body compared to semaglutide.

Why would I be prescribed semaglutide over tirzepatide?

There are several reasons why a healthcare provider might prescribe semaglutide over tirzepatide for an individual. Here are a few of them:

Treatment history and response: If an individual has previously been treated with semaglutide and has responded well to it in terms of weight loss and tolerability, their healthcare provider may opt to continue with semaglutide rather than switching to tirzepatide. This approach ensures continuity of treatment and minimizes the risk of potential side effects associated with switching medications.

Medical conditions and comorbidities: The choice between semaglutide and tirzepatide may also depend on the individual's specific medical conditions and comorbidities. Semaglutide has been extensively studied and approved for the treatment of both obesity and type 2 diabetes, making it a suitable option for individuals with either or both of these conditions. On the other hand, tirzepatide has only recently been approved for weight loss.

Dosing frequency and convenience: Semaglutide is typically administered once weekly, whereas tirzepatide may require more frequent dosing, such as once daily, depending on the specific treatment regimen. For some individuals, the convenience of a once-weekly injection with semaglutide may be preferred over the potential need for more frequent injections with tirzepatide.

Cost considerations: Cost can also be a factor in the decision-making process. While both semaglutide and tirzepatide are effective medications for weight loss, the cost of treatment may vary depending on factors such as insurance coverage, pharmacy discounts and availability of generic versions. Healthcare providers may take into account the individual's financial situation and insurance coverage when prescribing a medication over the other.

Side effect profile: Each medication may have a slightly different side effect profile, and the choice between semaglutide and tirzepatide may be influenced by factors such as the individual's tolerance to specific side effects or their likelihood of experiencing certain adverse reactions. Your healthcare providers will carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of each medication when making treatment recommendations.

Overall, the decision to prescribe semaglutide over tirzepatide, or vice versa, is based on a comprehensive evaluation of the individual's medical history, treatment goals, preferences and other relevant factors. It's important for individuals to discuss their options with their healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their specific needs.

How do I know if I'm qualified for semaglutide?

Semaglutide is primarily indicated for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg/m² or greater who have at least one weight-related condition, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes or dyslipidemia, and for those with a BMI of 30 kg/m² or greater regardless of comorbidities.

Before starting semaglutide or any other weight loss medication, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider who can evaluate your medical history, current health status and weight loss goals to determine if semaglutide is a suitable option for you. Factors such as allergies, medication interactions and pregnancy status should also be considered during this assessment process.

How does semaglutide help me lose weight?

Alright, now that you have a better idea of how semaglutide functions, it’s time to directly address the question. Semaglutide aids in weight loss through various mechanisms that influence appetite control, satiety and energy balance. Here's how it works:

  1. Appetite regulation: Semaglutide acts on GLP-1 receptors in the brain to reduce feelings of hunger and promote satiety. By mimicking the effects of GLP-1, it helps regulate appetite and food intake, leading to a decrease in calorie consumption.

  2. Delayed gastric emptying: GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide can slow down the rate at which the stomach empties, resulting in prolonged feelings of fullness after meals. This delayed gastric emptying contributes to reduced food cravings and overeating, supporting weight loss efforts.

  3. Improved glycemic control: While weight loss is a primary outcome of semaglutide treatment, it also helps improve glycemic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes. By enhancing insulin secretion and suppressing glucagon release, semaglutide helps regulate blood sugar levels, which can indirectly contribute to weight management.

  4. Metabolic effects: Beyond its effects on appetite and satiety, semaglutide may exert metabolic benefits such as increased energy expenditure and improved lipid profile. These additional effects can contribute to enhanced weight loss and metabolic health outcomes over time.

Ready to start your weight loss journey?

Before embarking on any weight loss journey with medications, it’s important to consult certified professionals. They will assess your health conditions, provide personalized recommendations and monitor your ongoing treatment. The collaborative approach between patients and healthcare providers ensures tailored, effective and long-term weight loss.

This brings us to Agile Telehealth! We offer rapid treatment for your weight loss concerns from licensed providers across the U.S. Simply fill out a brief, 5-minute health survey and schedule some time to meet your clinician virtually. They will review your information, confirm eligibility and create a personalized weight loss plan for you to begin right away. 

Agile’s monthly weight loss subscription includes the cost of visits, labs and semaglutide medication shipped directly to you for just $349 per month! No hidden fees and no insurance needed. If you’re ready to take the first step towards achieving your weight loss goals, schedule your appointment today!