Liraglutide Review: Can Injections Burn Fat?

Liraglutide Review: Can Injections Burn Fat?


| |
| |

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.

Liraglutide is an injectable medication that's FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. Liraglutide is the generic name for the drug, while Victoza and Saxenda are brand-name versions.

But how much weight loss can liraglutide cause? How much can it reduce blood sugar levels? Does liraglutide cause side effects? And how do real liraglutide patients rate and describe the effects of the drug?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we review clinical studies on liraglutide for weight loss and diabetes to determine if the drug is effective, and if so, how great the effect is.

We'll discuss side effects, feature real patient reviews, and explain if the branded versions are better options.

We'll also explain how the drug works using an animated video, and compare liraglutide to a similar chemical compound called semaglutide to see which is more likely to be effective.

Does Liraglutide Cause Weight Loss?

3 milligrams (mg) of liraglutide is the dose approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss, and this dose has been studied in clinical trials for its effects on weight.

A clinical trial published in the Lancet journal found that 3 mg of liraglutide per day was more effective for weight loss than another popular weight loss medication called orlistat, and also more effective than lower doses of liraglutide.

Trial participants taking 3 mg of liraglutide lost an average of 15.9 pounds over the 20 week trial.

One interesting finding from the above-linked study is that those taking liraglutide also experienced a statistically significant decrease in blood pressure, and also a reduced risk of pre-diabetes.

A 2012 clinical trial on liraglutide reported an average weight loss of 12.8 pounds more than placebo, and 7.9 pounds more than another leading weight loss drug.

Similar to the previous study, there were favorable health changes in the liraglutide group including improved cholesterol and blood pressure parameters.

Liraglutide is also effective for weight loss at lower doses, though less so.

A meta-study concluded that liraglutide causes significant weight loss even at lower doses than the 3 mg dose typically prescribed for weight loss.

In the above-linked study, patients on the 1.2 mg dose lost an average of 16.3 pounds. Patients on the 1.8 mg dose lost an average of 17.2 pounds.

We will conclude from the available research that liraglutide is effective for weight loss, which is unsurprising as the drug is approved by the FDA for that indication.

Does Liraglutide Reduce Blood Sugar?

1.2 mg and 1.8 mg of liraglutide are the FDA-approved doses for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

A 2011 meta-study reported that liraglutide reduced blood sugar levels and reduced systolic blood pressure.

medical review published in the Current Diabetes Reviews journal examined whether liraglutide was effective as an adjunctive treatment to insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes. These two drugs were taken concurrently.

The researchers analyzed results from over 2,400 patients, and concluded that liraglutide combined with insulin reduced blood glucose more than insulin alone.

The trial participants using liraglutide also required a lower daily dose of insulin.

A 2019 medical review examined the long-term efficacy of liraglutide for treating diabetes over five years, which is a valuable data point because most clinical trials are shorter in duration.

In those taking liraglutide, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels, which is a marker for blood sugar, decreased from 7.9 to 7 by the end of the trial. This is a decrease of 11.4%.

The study authors also noted that fasting blood sugar levels experienced a “significant reduction.”

Based on the available research, we will conclude that liraglutide is effective for reducing blood sugar, which is unsurprising as the drug is approved by the FDA for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Does Liraglutide Cause Side Effects?

Liraglutide does cause side effects in some patients, and some of the side effects are severe in nature.

A meta-study published in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome reported the most common side effects of liraglutide to be relatively mild: nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia (indigestion), constipation and diarrhea.

The rare side effects are more concerning in our opinion.

The above-linked meta-study reports an increased risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), gallbladder, liver disease and increased heart rate as rare side effects of liraglutide use.

The percentage of patients who experienced these side effects was not reported.

The FDA label for liraglutide 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg contains a “black box” warning indicating increased risk of thyroid C-cell tumors. This type of warning is the most severe issued by the FDA, and indicates a side effect that’s potentially life-threatening.

The FDA label for liraglutide 3 mg contains the same black box warning.

The black box warnings indicate that the tumor risk has only been proven in animal and not in human studies, but it seems logical for patients with a personal or family history of thyroid disorders to speak with their doctor about alternative type 2 diabetes or weight loss medications which may not confer this risk.

Real People Try Liraglutide

A TikTok creator named Niki shares her experience using liraglutide for diabetes and weight loss:

@nikimilanovicc Being very vulnerable here! If you are mean or negative you will get blocked. #weightlossprogress #prediabetes #insulinresistance #insulinresistanceinfo #prediabetesawareness #insulinresistancesymptoms #bloodsugarbalance #weightloss #healthylifestylejourney #prediabetesdiagnosis #prediabetesdiet #semiglutideweightloss #semiglutidesideeffects #liraglutide #liraglutideforweightloss ♬ original sound - Niki | Beating Diabetes 💥🥊

A TikTok creator named "awkwardturrrtle" shares the benefits and side effects she experienced while using liraglutide, and provides an injection demonstration:

@awkwardturrrtle 8 weeks on victoza (liraglutide)! #victoza #liraglutide #saxenda #victozaweightloss #victozapcos #pcosproblems #victozasideeffects #pcos ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Liraglutide vs. Semaglutide

Semaglutide is a generic drug in the same medication class as liraglutide, which is also prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes. Patients are often curious about which drug is more effective.

There are clinical trials directly comparing the effectiveness of the two drugs for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.

medical review published in the Healthcare journal compared the effectiveness of liraglutide and semaglutide for treating type 2 diabetes.

The study authors found that semaglutide was superior. Blood sugar levels were 0.47% lower with semaglutide 1 mg than with liraglutide 1.2 mg, and 0.3% lower with semaglutide 1 mg than with liraglutide 1.8 mg.

A 2018 clinical trial found that semaglutide was significantly more effective for weight loss than liraglutide.

Trial participants using semaglutide experienced around 5% more weight loss than those using liraglutide.

Based on the available research, we would recommend that patients interested in pharmacological therapy to treat obesity or type 2 diabetes speak with their doctor about semaglutide instead of liraglutide.

Patients Review Liraglutide

Liraglutide has been reviewed over 2,000 times on Drugs.com, which is a website where patients publish reviews and rate medications they’re prescribed.

We cannot verify the accuracy or authenticity of any reviews on this site.

The average rating of liraglutide for type 2 diabetes is currently 7.7 out of 10, and the drug’s average rating for obesity is currently 7.6 out of 10.

The top positive review of liraglutide for diabetes is written by a user named “T2D under control!” who claims that the drug significantly reduced their blood sugar levels and was superior to another commonly-prescribed diabetes medication:

“diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 4 yrs ago. I was prescribed Metformin, then added glipizide, which made me gain a half a pound a day until I quit taking it 30 days & 15 lbs later. Then I was prescribed [liraglutide]. The first 3 weeks, I was sick to my stomach, all day, every day...BUT after around the 4th week, I started feeling normal again. My A1C went from 9.2 to 5.4 in just 5 weeks.”

The top negative review of liraglutide for diabetes is from a user named “Lolo” who claims to have experienced discomforting side effects:

“Finished 2 weeks on [liraglutide]. 0.6 for one week then 1.2 for a week. I'm nauseous 24/7. No appetite. No energy. Nothing tastes good anymore. I stopped talking this med. After 1 day without it, the nausea was gone, my energy returned, my appetite came back and food had flavor again.”

The top positive review of liraglutide for obesity is written by a user named “lbdd13” who claims that the drug successfully caused weight loss and had minimal side effects:

“I am currently in week 3. I have lost 14 pounds. The side effects have been minimal, and are a little stronger on a day that I increase dosage...I feel good, and my stamina for exercise has increased. My blood pressure has dropped significantly”

The top negative review of liraglutide for obesity comes from an anonymous user who claims that the drug did not cause weight loss:

“Just finished my 3rd week on [liraglutide], about to start the 2.4 dose tomorrow. Result - nothing. No side effects eg. nausea, diarrhoea, stomach pains, dizziness. Just nothing. No weight loss except one pound.”

Are the Branded Versions Superior?

The brand name versions of liraglutide are Victoza (the lower-dose version for type 2 diabetes) and Saxenda (the higher-dose version for weight loss).

Patients are often curious about whether the generic or branded versions are a better option.

We typically recommend that patients speak with their doctor about generic drugs over their branded alternatives, because a 2019 medical review analyzed data from over 3.5 million patients and found the two drug classes to be functionally equivalent, and generic drugs are often cheaper.

At the time of updating this article, generic liraglutide is not available in the US, however it may become available in June of 2024 according to BioSpace.

The retail price of liraglutide at a 3 mg dose is currently around $1,300 according to GoodRx, while the retail price of liraglutide at a daily dose of 1.2 mg or 1.8 mg is currently around $1,100 according to GoodRx.

The manufacturer of Saxenda (liraglutide for weight loss) offers a savings page that can be found here, and the manufacturer of Victoza offers a savings page that can be found here.

How Does Liraglutide Work?

The mechanism of action of liraglutide is that the drug increases insulin secretion in response to glucose.

A 2023 medical review found that liraglutide can help normalize the insulin and glucose interaction after eating, which is dysregulated or totally absent in type 2 diabetics.

Our Saxenda reviews article explains how liraglutide is in a medication class called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists. GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas stimulate insulin release, so activating these receptors is what causes the favorable effects of liraglutide.

According to the 2023 medical review linked above, liraglutide can optimize cardiovascular function in some patients by improving endothelial function and cardiac output, which is potentially why some of the clinical trials we cited previously in this article reported that the drug reduced blood pressure.

A YouTube creator named "egpat" has a video with a more in-depth biological breakdown of how liraglutide works:

Liraglutide Dosage

Liraglutide is dosed at 0.6 mg, 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg for treating type 2 diabetes. The drug is dosed at 3 mg for treating obesity.

Doctors will generally prescribe liraglutide at the lowest dose in the effective range to minimize the risk of side effects.

If liraglutide is prescribed for type 2 diabetes, this means that the drug may be prescribed at a starting dose of 0.6 mg. The doctor will monitor patient response and can increase the dose slowly over the course of weeks if the patient’s blood sugar levels fail to improve.

Liraglutide is not currently approved for daily use at any dose above 3 mg. 

Our Clean Weight Loss Picks

There are food-based nutrients which have been shown in medical studies to be effective for weight loss.

Dietary fiber was shown in a medical review published in The Journal of Nutrition to cause 16 pounds of weight loss in 6 months when combined with moderate caloric restriction (750 calories per day below baseline).

MBG Organic Fiber Potency+ is our top fiber pick because it's certified organic, provides 7 g of fiber per serving and costs under $1.85 per serving at the time of updating this article.

MCT oil was shown in a meta-study to cause more than one pound of weight loss over 10 weeks. This equates to potential annualized weight loss of 6 pounds per year with less than one tablespoon's worth of MCT oil per day.

Bulletproof MCT Oil is our top MCT oil product, because the only ingredient is MCT oil derived from coconuts. and it currently costs only $15.50 for over a month's worth of product.

Ginger intake "significantly decreased body weight" according to a 2019 meta-study on ginger and weight loss that analyzed data from 14 clinical trials.

Pique La Ginger is our top ginger product, because it's an organic tea in convenient crystallized form, and all that's needed is to pour the powder into a glass and add hot water.

All three of the products mentioned in this section are entirely free of additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy or unsafe.

We are not suggesting that any of the products referenced in this section are as effective as liraglutide, or any other FDA-approved weight loss medication. Rather, we're sharing options that patients with an aversion to pharmaceutical medication may wish to speak to their doctor about.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Liraglutide is clinically proven to reduce blood sugar levels and to reduce weight in overweight and obese patients.

We consider the research backing for weight loss to be more impressive than the research backing for type 2 diabetes. 

The most common side effects of liraglutide are nausea and indigestion. The medication also may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, which while rare, is concerning.

Semaglutide appears to be more effective as both an anti-diabetic and anti-obesity agent than liraglutide, so we would recommend that patients speak with their doctor about semaglutide if they’re considering a drug to manage these conditions.

Liraglutide is only available in the form of brand-name medications Saxenda and Victoza at the time of updating this article, but in June of 2024 a generic alternative may reach the US market.

If a generic does get produced, we'd recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the generic version rather than the brand-name versions, because the generic version should be equally effective but may be significantly cheaper.