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What Role Do Injectable Diabetes Medications Play In Weight Loss?

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 29, 2024

While excess weight is linked to 90% of type 2 diabetes cases, not all diabetics are overweight, and not all overweight people develop diabetes. Insulin resistance is a critical factor in developing diabetes, and excess weight can cause it.

Fortunately, there are certain diabetes injections for weight loss, like semaglutide, that are 15-20% effective. Semaglutide injections, also known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, reduce appetite and slow digestion, resulting in significant weight loss.

In this article, you will learn about diabetes and its effect on the body. Additionally, you will discover various diabetes injections for weight loss, their associated side effects, and other weight loss options.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Understanding diabetes and its impact on weight is crucial, as excess weight is linked to 90% of type 2 diabetes cases, highlighting the intricate relationship between the two health concerns.
  • Diabetes injections, specifically GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide, offer a dual solution by enhancing blood sugar control and facilitating significant weight reduction, providing hope for individuals with both challenges.
  • The consideration of diabetes injections for weight loss should be based on individual circumstances. Candidates may include those with type 2 diabetes struggling with traditional treatments, individuals with pre-diabetes, those dealing with obesity, and those seeking assistance with appetite control.
  • While diabetes injections are promising for weight loss, individuals should be aware of potential side effects, including hypoglycemia, gastrointestinal issues, injection site reactions, hypersensitivity reactions, and kidney function and pancreatitis considerations.
  • Beyond diabetes injections, adopting a balanced diet, incorporating regular physical activity, and, in some cases, exploring bariatric surgery are alternative weight loss options for individuals with diabetes, contributing to a comprehensive approach to health.
  • To maximize the benefits of diabetes injections for weight loss, a holistic approach to health and well-being is essential, emphasizing the importance of personalized guidance from healthcare professionals and integrating lifestyle changes for optimal results.
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door

How Does Diabetes Contribute To Weight Gain?

Diabetes is a complex condition that can strongly influence weight because it affects how the body manages blood sugar levels. Here are more ways in which diabetes affects weight:

1. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance contributes to weight gain in those with diabetes. It causes glucose to be directed towards the liver, accumulating fat in and around the visceral organs, thus increasing the risk of metabolic complications and obesity.

Studies indicate that 22% of American adults over 20 have insulin resistance and that adult weight gain is strongly associated with increased insulin resistance. Additionally, 40% of adults aged 18 to 44 are affected by this condition.

2. Hormonal Imbalance

Diabetes can disturb the equilibrium of appetite-regulating hormones, including leptin, which communicates a sense of fullness, and ghrelin, which triggers hunger.

Research has shown that individuals who are overweight or obese tend to have lower levels of leptin (32%)and higher levels of ghrelin (21%) compared to those of normal weight.

This is because leptin is produced by fat cells and helps regulate appetite and metabolism. At the same time, ghrelin stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.

So, the lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin in overweight and obese individuals may contribute to overeating and weight gain.

3. Medications and Hypoglycemia

Some diabetes medications, particularly insulin and certain oral medications like Sulfonylureas, Thiazolidinediones, and Glinidescan lead to weight gain as a side effect. Below are the medications for diabetes that can cause weight gain:

Sulfonylureas

Sulfonylureas effectively reduces glycated hemoglobin by around 1.25%. Still, they have drawbacks, including weight gain, hypoglycemia, and the highest risk of severe hypoglycemia among Type 2 Diabetes treatments.

Meta-analyses indicate that they can lead to a weight gain of 2.01 to 2.3 kg when combined with other agents compared to a placebo. Due to these issues, as well as potential cardiovascular risks and declining efficacy over time, sulfonylureas are not recommended for patients with obesity.

Thiazolidinediones

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are effective in reducing glycated hemoglobin, resulting in reductions of around 1.25% compared to a placebo, and carry a low risk of hypoglycemia.

They also induce durable antihyperglycemic effects but are associated with weight gain ranging from 2.30 to 4.25 kg. This weight gain is due to mechanisms such as fluid retention and redistribution of adipose tissue.

Glinides

Glinides, also known as Meglitinides, have glycated hemoglobin-lowering properties, with reductions of approximately 0.75% compared to placebo. They have a similar side effect profile to sulfonylureas but a lower risk of hypoglycemia.

However, their relatively short half-life means they must be administered frequently. Weight gain associated with Glinides is similar to that seen with Sulfonylureas (ranging from 0.91 to 2.67 kg), which suggests that they should also be avoided in patients with obesity.

👍 Recommendation

If you're encountering signs like frequent urination and excessive thirst or your blood tests reveal elevated blood sugar levels, you could be dealing with type 2 diabetes. Consider exploring various care options and shopping for over-the-counter treatments.

What Are Diabetes Injections For Weight Loss?

Diabetes injections that help with weight loss are a specialized medical intervention designed to address two distinct health concerns: diabetes management and the reduction of excess body weight.

These injections usually include specific medications or hormones to help people with diabetes achieve better blood sugar control, supporting weight loss.

Below, we'll explore the different types of injections commonly used for diabetes and weight loss, highlighting their key characteristics and roles:

1. GLP-1 Receptor Agonists

Glucagon-like peptide-1 Receptor Agonists (GLP-1 RAs) effectively reduce postprandial glucose levels by multiple mechanisms. They activate GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas, stimulating insulin secretion while suppressing glucagon secretion.

In the central nervous system, they decrease appetite. In the gastrointestinal tract, they slow gastric motility and emptying, which delays intestinal glucose absorption. The delayed absorption reduces postprandial glucose excursions, enhances satiety, and reduces appetite.

GLP-1 RAs reduce glycated hemoglobin levels, leading to approximately 0.8% to 1.9% reductions compared to baseline. They have a low risk of hypoglycemia due to their glucose-dependent mechanism of action.

Additionally, they are usually associated with reductions in weight and blood pressure. The most common side effects of GLP-1 RAs are mild-to-moderate and transient, such as nausea and vomiting.

These agents are administered through injections, with injection frequency requirements ranging from twice daily to once weekly, depending on the formulation. Clinical trial data have shown that GLP-1 RA therapy is associated with weight changes ranging from -2.51 to -15.21 lbs.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several injectable diabetes medications for weight loss. These include:

  • Tirzepatide (Mounjaro): Tirzepatide is an innovative medication that addresses type 2 diabetes while supporting weight loss, with an average weight loss of 15 pounds demonstrated in clinical trials.
  • Semaglutide (Wegovy): Semaglutide is another highly effective medication that has been approved for weight loss. Individuals who received wegovy lost 6.2% of their initial body weight.

🗒️ Related Articles

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2. Amylin Mimetics Pramlintide

Pramlintide is a synthetic drug miming the effects of a hormone called amylin, normally produced by the pancreas and insulin. Amylin plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels after meals.

It helps to slow down the digestion of food, reduce the release of glucose from the liver, and control appetite. Pramlintide is typically administered as an injection before meals. It is not an insulin replacement but is used in addition to insulin therapy to provide better glycemic control.

Clinical trials consistently demonstrate that pramlintide effectively reduces body weight compared to a placebo, with a notable difference of 1.5 to 2.5 kg. This weight loss is attributed to pramlintide's ability to enhance feelings of fullness and slow digestion.

These studies have also shown that pramlintide can reduce food and caloric intake in non-diabetic individuals who are obese. In fact, in obese patients without diabetes, pramlintide has effectively reduced weight (weighted mean difference of − 2.27 kg) and waist circumference (weighted mean difference of − 2.02 cm).

Who Should Consider Diabetes Injections For Weight Loss?

The consideration of diabetes injections for weight loss should be based on an individual's specific medical circumstances and the recommendations of a healthcare provider. Generally, the following groups of individuals may be candidates for diabetes injections for weight loss:

  • Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes: Diabetes injections, particularly GLP-1 receptor agonists, are often recommended for individuals with type 2 diabetes who struggle to achieve optimal blood sugar control with traditional oral medications.
  • People with Pre-Diabetes: For individuals with pre-diabetes, diabetes injections can be considered as a preventive measure. They may help individuals manage their blood sugar levels and prevent the development of full-blown diabetes while also aiding in weight loss.
  • Patients with Obesity: Obese individuals may benefit from diabetes injections to promote weight loss, even without diabetes. This is a viable option for those who have tried other methods without success and are at risk of obesity-related health problems.
  • Individuals Struggling with Appetite Control: Diabetes injections with appetite-suppressing effects can help control food intake and aid weight loss.
  • People with Specific Medical Indications: Healthcare providers may sometimes recommend diabetes injections for weight loss based on specific medical indications, such as hormonal imbalances or metabolic conditions that affect weight regulation.

Do Diabetes Injections for Weight Loss Have Side Effects?

Yes. Diabetes injections for weight loss have potential risks and side effects that should be taken into consideration. Some of the possible risks and side effects include:

  • Hypoglycemia: Diabetes medications can cause low blood sugar if the dosage is too high or insufficient food is consumed. Symptoms include shakiness, dizziness, sweating, confusion, and loss of consciousness in severe cases. Proper dosing and monitoring are crucial to avoid hypoglycemia.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Some diabetes injections, especially GLP-1 receptor agonists, can cause gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms may be temporary and can improve over time, but they can affect an individual's quality of life.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Injections may cause skin reactions at the injection site, such as redness, swelling, or itching. These reactions are typically mild and temporary but should be monitored.
  • Hypersensitivity Reactions: In rare cases, individuals may experience allergic or hypersensitivity reactions to the medications used in these injections. Symptoms can vary, from skin issues to serious reactions like breathing difficulties or facial swelling. Seek immediate medical help if these occur.
  • Kidney Function: Diabetes meds like SGLT2 inhibitors can affect kidneys. Discuss risks with your healthcare provider if you have kidney issues.
  • Pancreatitis: Rarely, some diabetes medications may cause pancreatitis, with symptoms like severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Seek medical help if you experience these symptoms.

What Are Other Weight Loss Options For Diabetics?

While diabetic injections are primarily used to manage blood sugar levels, several other weight loss options can benefit individuals with diabetes. Here are some weight loss options that can be used alongside diabetes injections:

  • Balanced Diet: Adopting a balanced diet focusing on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, can aid in weight loss and blood sugar control. Cutting down on sugary and processed foods is crucial for diabetes management.
  • Physical Activity: Incorporating regular physical activity into one's routine can help burn calories, improve insulin sensitivity, and support weight loss. Aim for aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, swimming) and strength training for best results.
  • Bariatric Surgery: In some cases, individuals with severe obesity and diabetes may consider bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, as a weight loss option. This should be discussed with a healthcare provider and evaluated carefully.

Final Thoughts

The role of diabetes injections for weight loss is to provide a dual-purpose solution by addressing diabetes management and aiding in weight reduction. These injections, particularly GLP-1 receptor agonists, hold the potential to not only improve blood sugar control but also aid in substantial weight reduction.

If you're considering diabetes injections for weight loss, consult with healthcare professionals to ensure personalized guidance and monitor potential medication interactions. Remember that these injections yield the greatest benefits when incorporated into a holistic approach to health and well-being, thus amplifying their effectiveness.

FAQs On Diabetes Injections For Weight Loss

What are eye injections for diabetes, and how do they work?

Eye injections for diabetes typically refer to treatments like anti-VEGF injections, which are used to manage diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. These injections help reduce abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina and improve vision in some cases. These are not associated with weight loss.

What is the duration of the effect of a single weight loss injection?

If you are using Saxenda, a pre-filled injection pen for weight loss, one pen should last for approximately 16 days, and five pens should be enough for six weeks. To reach the fully effective 3-mg dose, you need to follow a 5-week dose escalation. If you're looking for another weight loss injection option, Wegovy is also available. It's a once-weekly injection that's been shown to help people lose weight.

What is the optimal timing for administering weight loss injections

Saxenda weight loss injections offer the flexibility of being taken any time of the day, with or without a meal. It is important to note that while Saxenda can help most patients with weight loss, the results and timeline cannot be guaranteed.

Once you stop taking diabetes injections for weight loss, what happens next?

When the person discontinues the drug, their body interprets the calorie deficit as malnourishment, leading to a resurgence of their previous appetite and a drop in metabolism. To avoid regaining weight after stopping a drug, maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly. This will keep your metabolism strong and prevent your previous appetite from returning.

What is the average time for diabetes injections for weight loss to start working?

A patient may experience an immediate increase in energy and a decrease in appetite after receiving an injection. However, it may take several days to weeks for noticeable effects on weight loss and fat burning, depending on factors such as metabolism, age, health, and lifestyle.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door