Ozempic For Weight Loss: An Overview

  • Jenny LeeMaster of Chemistry with medicinal Chemistry, The University of Manchester

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Chances are you’ve heard of Ozempic - the antidiabetic drug that has gained attention for its ability to aid weight loss. While not its intended purpose, Ozempic is highly effective at helping people lose weight due to its influence on such factors as appetite, digestion, and blood sugar. This, paired with the shortage of Wegovy (which has the same active ingredient but is prescribed officially for weight loss), explains why it has become so popular among celebrities and social media influencers alike. 

By exploring topics such as the action of Ozempic in the body and how it is used for weight loss, this overview aims to provide you with a better understanding of the drug - including its benefits and potential risks. 

What is Ozempic?

Definition and purpose

Ozempic is a medication primarily used for managing type 2 diabetes - a condition that causes elevated levels of sugar in the blood due to issues with the hormone insulin. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists. These drugs demonstrate high effectiveness in regulating blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, and - as is evident by the focus of this overview - they also promote weight loss.

How it works in the body

GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as semaglutide, work by mimicking the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which is naturally released in the gastrointestinal tract when you eat food. The principal functions of this hormone are:

  • Stimulating the release of insulin, which is a hormone that lowers blood sugar levels 
  • Inhibiting the release of glucagon, which is a hormone that raises blood sugar levels 
  • Reducing the amount of sugar made by the liver
  • Slowing down the emptying of the stomach
  • Sending signals to the brain to reduce appetite and increase satiety (feelings of fullness)1

Therefore, via the mechanisms of its active ingredient, semaglutide, Ozempic has the overall effects of decreasing blood sugar and appetite - subsequently leading to reduced food intake. 

Common uses of Ozempic

The primary use of Ozempic is the management of type 2 diabetes. On top of this, it can reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events - like stroke, heart attack, or death - in people with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also used to aid weight loss in people who do not have diabetes. In these cases, healthcare providers will prescribe the drug off-label - in other words, outside of its approved licence for use. 

Ozempic for weight loss

Ozempic can be a valuable tool for individuals aiming to lose weight as it can complement traditional methods - such as diet and exercise plans. It also offers an alternative to extreme measures like weight loss surgery for people who struggle to lose weight via the traditional route.

How does Ozempic aid weight loss?

Appetite suppression

By mimicking GLP-1, Ozempic’s active ingredient, semaglutide, acts on a region within the brain known as the hypothalamus. This region influences multiple human functions, including hunger and appetite.2 The signals from Ozempic reduce hunger and increase satiety, leading to decreased food intake. As a consequence, individuals taking this drug will typically find it easier to adhere to a calorie-restricted diet, which is crucial for weight loss. 

Slowed digestion

By slowing down the rate at which food passes through the digestive system, Ozempic causes food to stay in the stomach longer than usual. This makes people feel fuller for longer, meaning they will typically consume less food and will subsequently lose weight. 

Regulation of blood sugar levels

In people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels can lead to increased hunger and cravings. This can make it difficult to stick to a healthy and balanced diet and thus to maintain a healthy weight. By helping regulate blood sugar levels due to its influence on insulin and glucagon hormones, Ozempic reduces these cravings and indirectly contributes to weight loss. 

Effectiveness in weight loss

Several studies have highlighted the effectiveness of Ozempic in aiding weight loss. In these studies, the people given Ozempic demonstrated lower appetite and cravings, reduced food intake, and increased weight loss compared to those given a placebo (a drug with no active ingredient).3,4

How is Ozempic used for weight loss?

Administration and dosage

Ozempic is injected once per week subcutaneously (under the skin) in the abdomen, thigh, or upper arm. The injection sites should be rotated each time to prevent the development of lumps associated with lipohypertrophy - which is a condition that can also occur when diabetics inject insulin. These lumps are unsightly and can affect the absorption of the injected drug; therefore, rotation of injection sites is essential. 

The starting dose of Ozempic is typically 0.25mg per week. A healthcare provider will monitor this dose - gradually increasing it to achieve the desired weight loss goals.

Potential side effects and precautions

The most common side effects of Ozempic affect the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, patients frequently experience nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, and abdominal pain.5 More serious side effects can also occur, including serious allergic reactions, gallbladder issues, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and an increased risk of thyroid cancer

An important precaution to consider when self-administering Ozempic is to avoid injecting it into a vein or muscle. If injected into a vein, complications can occur; these include infection, allergic reactions, rapid and unpredictable changes in blood sugar levels, and potential organ damage. Similarly, there are risks associated with injecting Ozempic into a muscle. These include delayed or reduced effectiveness, injection site reactions, and systemic effects that can cause adverse reactions throughout the body. 

Importance of medical supervision

It is crucial to use Ozempic under the supervision of a healthcare provider, particularly when using it for weight loss. In addition, patients should discuss their medical history with a healthcare provider before starting the medication, as certain conditions and medications can increase the risk of side effects.

With appropriate supervision, healthcare providers can determine whether Ozempic is the correct treatment option, and they can also monitor progress to ensure that it is working effectively and to address any side effects or concerns. They can also offer guidance on diet and lifestyle changes to implement alongside Ozempic to support weight loss goals. 

As with all prescribed medications, it is vitally important that patients only adjust their dosage or stop taking Ozempic after consulting a healthcare provider first. 

Lifestyle changes alongside Ozempic 

The role of diet in weight loss with Ozempic

While Ozempic is effective at aiding weight loss on its own, it is important to remember the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet. Diet plays a crucial role in weight loss and overall health, and making the correct food choices can complement Ozempic to provide optimal results. General diet advice for weight loss includes incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein and limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-calorie drinks. 

Incorporating exercise and physical activity

Similarly to a healthy diet, regular exercise and physical activity are important components of a successful weight loss plan and will help to complement the effectiveness of Ozempic. Not only does exercise burn calories, but it also improves overall health and well-being. Aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercise - such as walking, jogging, or cycling - and strength training to build muscle and boost metabolism. Muscle requires more energy to maintain than fat, so building muscle will help you burn more calories - even at rest. 


Ozempic - which contains the active ingredient semaglutide - is a medication primarily used for managing type 2 diabetes that has also shown promise in aiding weight loss. It works by mimicking the action of a hormone in the body known as GLP-1, which regulates blood sugar levels, slows emptying of the stomach, and reduces appetite. When used for weight loss, Ozempic should be taken under medical supervision and combined with healthy lifestyle changes to provide optimal results. 

It is vital to consider the potential side effects of taking Ozempic - especially those that are more serious, like pancreatitis and increased thyroid cancer risk. On top of this, there must be a sufficient supply of Ozempic for people with type 2 diabetes, so generally it is better to opt for drugs officially prescribed for weight loss - such as Wegovy. 


How much weight can you lose in a month with Ozempic?

Studies have demonstrated that, after using Ozempic for one month, people lose around 1.1% of their body weight.6 More significant weight loss is typically seen as people continue to use the medication and their dose increases. 

Do you regain weight after stopping Ozempic?

Typically, when people stop taking Ozempic, they will regain at least some of the weight that they lost.7

Why does Ozempic age your face?

Because it causes fat loss, Ozempic can decrease facial volume and contribute to the development of more wrinkles and loose skin - leading to a more aged appearance. 

How long can you stay on Ozempic?

As long as it is well tolerated with no serious side effects, there is currently no limit to how long you can take Ozempic. However, medical supervision is essential while taking this medication.


  1. Holst JJ. The physiology of glucagon-like peptide 1. Physiol Rev. 2007; 87(4):1409–39. PubMed, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00034.2006.
  2. Hiller-Sturmhöfel S, Bartke A. The Endocrine System. Alcohol Health Res World [Internet]. 1998 [cited 2024 Feb 17]; 22(3):153–64. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761896/.
  3. Blundell J, Finlayson G, Axelsen M, Flint A, Gibbons C, Kvist T, et al. Effects of once‐weekly semaglutide on appetite, energy intake, control of eating, food preference and body weight in subjects with obesity. Diabetes Obes Metab [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 17]; 19(9):1242–51. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573908/.
  4. Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Calanna S, Davies M, Van Gaal LF, Lingvay I, et al. Once-Weekly Semaglutide in Adults with Overweight or Obesity. N Engl J Med. 2021; 384(11):989–1002. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2032183.
  5. Shu Y, He X, Wu P, Liu Y, Ding Y, Zhang Q. Gastrointestinal adverse events associated with semaglutide: A pharmacovigilance study based on FDA adverse event reporting system. Front Public Health [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 17]; 10:996179. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9631444/.
  6. Sorli C, Harashima S, Tsoukas GM, Unger J, Karsbøl JD, Hansen T, et al. Efficacy and safety of once-weekly semaglutide monotherapy versus placebo in patients with type 2 diabetes (SUSTAIN 1): a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, multinational, multicentre phase 3a trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2024 Feb 17]; 5(4):251–60. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S221385871730013X.
  7. Wilding JPH, Batterham RL, Davies M, Van Gaal LF, Kandler K, Konakli K, et al. Weight regain and cardiometabolic effects after withdrawal of semaglutide: The STEP 1 trial extension. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2022; 24(8):1553–64. PubMed, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1111/dom.14725.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ella Dyer

Bachelor of Science - BSc, University of Kent, UK

Ella is a Biomedical Science graduate with a passion for writing and healthcare. She has a particular interest in cancer biology and immunology, and she is driven by a goal to foster widespread scientific literacy and health awareness.

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