Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regards to prescription medication.
Saxenda is one of the leading weight loss prescription medications. Interestingly, it’s an injectable medication unlike the standard pill format that was present in the Phentermine and Contrave weight loss medications that we previously reviewed.
In this article we’ll review the medical research on Saxenda to determine whether we recommend it as a safe and effective weight loss treatment, or whether there are alternative options we recommend instead.
How Does It Work?
Saxenda’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called liraglutide, which stimulates insulin secretion in response to glucose. Medical research has shown that this compound can cause weight loss in two ways: delayed gastric emptying and appetite suppression.
Delayed gastric emptying means food stays in the stomach longer than usual, which keeps a patient full for longer. Appetite suppression is probably caused by this effect.
Because liraglutide stays in the body for a relatively long time (it has a half-life of 13 hours), Saxenda only needs to be used once daily in most cases.
Is Saxenda Effective For Weight Loss?
Saxenda’s dose of 3 milligrams (mg) of daily liraglutide has been studied in various medical trials for weight loss. One medical trial found that the dose in Saxenda was more effective for weight loss than both placebo and another popular weight loss medication called orlistat. Participants taking the same dosage as in Saxenda lost an average of 7.2 kilograms (kg) over the 20 week trial, which is equivalent to 15.9 pounds (Ibs).
One interesting note about the above study is that participants at the Saxenda dosage also experienced a statistically significant decrease in blood pressure, and also a reduced prevalence of prediabetes.
Another clinical trial on liraglutide found that subjects using the dosage contained in Saxenda lost an average of 5.8 kg (12.8 lbs) more than placebo, and 3.6 kg (7.9 lbs) more than another leading weight loss drug. Similar to the previous study, there were secondary benefits outside of weight loss seen in the liraglutide group, including favorable blood pressure and cholesterol changes.
There are other studies on Saxenda, but we can conclude that it’s effective for weight loss based on the medical research reviewed. Generally pharmaceutical medications have significant research backing their effectiveness, compared with supplements, even though they may have more concerning side effect profiles in some cases.
Saxenda Side Effects
The main side effects shown in medical research for Saxenda were gastrointestinal. This is unsurprising given how it works: delaying gastric emptying may cause nausea, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting as they list in the side effects section of their website.
Patients taking Saxenda also had a higher pulse rate than placebo.
The more concerning side effect in our opinion is the potentially increased risk of cancer, which Saxenda lists on their website. A medical review on the side effects of liraglutide for weight loss concluded that “liraglutide may be associated with an increased risk of thyroid, pancreatic, and early breast cancer”.
It appears that most of the research on cancer as a side effect of liraglutide has been at lower doses than that in Saxenda, so we look forward to more research emerging on the safety and cancer risk of 3 mg liraglutide (the dose used in Saxenda.
Better Natural Alternatives
While Saxenda is shown to be effective for weight loss in the medical research reviewed, we believe that there are some natural alternatives which may provide superior weight loss results with a better side effect profile.
One of the most well-studied lifestyle modifications for improved weight loss is a dietary change to significantly increase fiber intake. Medical research shows that dietary fiber supplementation in obese individuals significantly enhances weight loss, and it does so in a dose-dependent fashion. This means that the more fiber consumed, to a limit, the most weight lost on average.
The reason this works is because fiber takes up space in the stomach and increases the sense of fullness without increasing calories. Fiber is indigestible plant matter. If you’ve ever wondered why you can feel more full after eating a healthy meal like a large salad with chicken and beans compared with the same amount of calories from processed food like chips, the reason is fiber.
Some great sources of dietary fiber are beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and dark chocolate.
For consumers who prefer dietary supplements, psyllium husk fiber is a powder that can be purchased relatively cheap and added to water or coffee or smoothies. It’s the active ingredient in expensive fiber supplements like Colon Broom, but we recommend purchasing the plain powder instead of a branded version as it’s cheaper.
For patients who prefer a pharmaceutical approach to weight loss, we recommend speaking with your doctor about Plenity which we also reviewed. While we don’t necessarily recommend Plenity generally, we would recommend it over Saxenda because we believe it has a more favorable side effect profile.