Semaglutide Review: Better for Diabetes or Weight Loss?

Semaglutide Review: Better for Diabetes or Weight Loss?


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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 regard to prescription medication.

Semaglutide is a drug that’s used to treat both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The drug is sold under the brand names Rybelsus and Ozempic for treating diabetes, and under the brand name Wegovy when used for weight loss.

Even though the same active drug ingredient (semaglutide) is used in all three brand-name medications, the dosages differ as we'll explain later.

But is semaglutide proven to work for diabetes? What about for weight loss? Does the drug cause any side effects? And how do real semaglutide users 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 semaglutide to determine if the drug is effective for diabetes and weight loss, and if so, how strong of an effect it can have.

We'll discuss the risk of side effects, explain how to get the best price on the drug, document the dosing range and explain how semaglutide works in the body.

We'll also feature reviews from semaglutide users including before-and-after images.

Does Semaglutide Reverse Diabetes?

Semaglutide is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat type 2 diabetes. 

The drug has been studied for its efficacy at lowering blood sugar in hundreds of clinical trials, as we highlighted in our recent Ozempic review article.

A meta-review published in the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism journal analyzed data from seven clinical trials on semaglutide and type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the drug reduced HbA1c levels (a marker of blood sugar) by 1.01% and 1.38% when used at two different doses.

A 2018 clinical trial found that semaglutide reduced the blood sugar spike in obese patients after a meal high in dietary fats.

An medical review published in the Drugs journal analyzed data from 96 clinical trials, and found that the average range of blood sugar reduction experienced by patients taking semaglutide was -0.4% to -1.6%.

We can conclude from the available medical research that semaglutide is effective for treating type 2 diabetes, although its effect on blood sugar appears to be relatively modest.

Does Semaglutide Cause Weight Loss?

Semaglutide has been studied in many clinical trials for its effects on weight in overweight and obese patients.

As we documented in our Wegovy weight loss reviews article, semaglutide is approved for weight loss in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients.

Semaglutide is typically prescribed at a higher dose for weight loss than for type 2 diabetes. The injectable weekly dose used for weight loss is 2.4 milligrams (mg), while the injectable weekly dose used for diabetes ranges between 0.5 and 2 mg.

Semaglutide causes significantly more weight loss than placebo according to a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The average weight loss in semaglutide patients was 14.9%, while the average weight loss in placebo patients was only 2.4%.

This equates to 37.25 pounds of weight loss for a patient on semaglutide with a baseline weight of 250 pounds. The trial lasted slightly longer than one year.

Oral semaglutide may also be effective for weight loss in overweight patients, though less so than injections.

A 2021 clinical trial reported that over 12 weeks, patients taking semaglutide orally lost an average of 5.95 pounds.

Semaglutide is only FDA-approved for weight loss in injectable form, so we would consider weight loss from oral semaglutide to be a potential secondary benefit for overweight diabetics prescribed the drug.

Based on the available research, we consider semaglutide likely to be effective for weight loss, which is unsurprising given that the drug is approved by the FDA for this indication.

Real People Try Semaglutide

A TikTok creator named "coachkatierogers" shares five things that she wishes she knew before starting semaglutide:

@coachkatierogers 💗🫶 #semaglutide #glp1 #weightloss ♬ Da Girls (Girls Mix) [feat. Lola Brooke & Lady London] - Ciara & Lola Brooke & Lady London

A TikTok creator named Sarah shares before-and-after images and claims to have lost over 60 pounds while on semaglutide:

@sarahlibbyeveryday Trust the process 🖤 #weightlossover40 #semaglutideforweightloss #semaglutideweightloss #60lbsdown #semaglutidetribe #weightlosstransformation #weightlossprogress #beforeandafter #beforeandafterweightloss #beforeandaftertransformation ♬ suara asli - Galuh

Does Semaglutide Cause Side Effects?

Semaglutide does cause side effects in some patients.

The FDA label for both oral and injectable semaglutide contains a “black box” warning indicating increased risk of thyroid tumors in some patients. This is the most severe type of warning issued by the FDA, and is used to reference side effects which may be severe or life-threatening.

The studies suggesting potentially increased tumor risk were animal studies, not human studies, but it may be advisable for patients with a personal or family history of thyroid disorders to speak with their doctor about different medication options.

Thyroid tumors are a rare potential side effect of semaglutide. The more common side effects are milder.

A 2021 medical review on the safety of semaglutide documented the following side effect rates: nausea occurred in upwards of 20% of patients, vomiting occurred in 4% to 11.5% of patients, and diarrhea occurred in 4.5% to 11.3% of patients.

Older patients were more likely to experience side effects.

How Much Does Semaglutide Cost?

The branded versions of semaglutide have different prices.

According to GoodRx, the retail cost of Wegovy is around $1,300 for a 30-day supply at the time of updating this article.

The cost of Ozempic is reported as around $900, and the cost of Rybelsus is currently around $900 as well.

Health insurance can reduce the retail price of these drugs, so it's important for patients prescribed a version of semaglutide to talk to both their doctor and health insurance provider to ensure they're aware of their out-of-pocket costs.

All three semaglutide drug manufacturers also have price savings pages on their websites which we’ve linked below. These resource pages contain offers for additional discounts like savings cards:

  1. Wegovy
  2. Ozempic
  3. Rybelsus

Patients Review Semaglutide

Drugs.com is a website where patients taking prescription medication can publish reviews sharing their experience.

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

The Drugs.com page for semaglutide currently shows a higher patient rating for the drug's treatment of obesity (7.1 out of 10 average rating) than for the treatment of type 2 diabetes (6.1 out of 10).

The top positive review of semaglutide for type 2 diabetes is written by a user named “Zell” who claims the medication improved their blood sugar levels and weight:

“What a miracle! 9 months later and I’m down 40 lbs, my a1c dropped from 8.1 to 5.6, and I have virtually no symptoms from the drug other than fullness. The symptoms in the beginning did not last long either.”

The top negative review of semaglutide for type 2 diabetes is published by a user named “Stingie” who claims that one single dose of the medication caused them to experience significant side effects:

“I did one injection and have been ill since. Have had acid reflux, burping, vomiting, constipation, headache and dizziness. I tried to eat small meals and drink plenty of water as directed by my physician, but I have been unable to hold anything down.”

The top positive review of semaglutide for weight loss comes from a user named “Philly” who claims to have lost a significant amount of weight while taking the drug: 

“6 months. -65 pounds. Hypertension gone. Pre Diabetes gone. Sleep apnea gone. Lower leg skin breakdown gone.”

The top negative review of semaglutide for weight loss is written by a user named “Kmac” who claims the drug caused them to experience severe side effects:

“I spent 6 weeks of my life with an upset stomach, the absolute worst reflux and heartburn I have ever had, and constant nausea. I had to literally force myself to eat. Would not recommend. The side effects and the price is not worth it.”

How Does Semaglutide Work?

Semaglutide is in a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA). These compounds help normalize glucose levels by activating GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas which causes insulin release.

According to a medical review, GLP-1RA medications may also block the release of a hormone called glucagon which is commonly elevated in type 2 diabetics.

Glucagon causes the body to increase blood sugar levels, so the combination of limiting this hormone and increasing insulin combine to be effective for blood sugar reduction.

In regard to weight loss, semaglutide may be effective because it reduces hunger and increases the sense of fullness. The medication delays gastric emptying which causes patients to feel full longer.

Semaglutide Dosage

The weekly dosage of injectable semaglutide ranges from 0.25 mg to 2.4 mg, according to the FDA label linked previously in this article.

According to the Rybelsus FDA label, oral semaglutide is available at doses of 3 mg, 7 mg and 14 mg.

Doctors will typically prescribe a medication like semaglutide at the lower end of the therapeutic dosing range to see how a patient reacts.

If the medication is effective, they can remain at a lower dosage which may confer a lower risk of side effects. If the patient is unresponsive, dosage will typically have to be titrated up over time.

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're not suggesting any of these supplements should be used to treat any medical condition, or that they're as effective as any FDA-approved medication; rather, we're just sharing information that individuals averse to prescription medication can speak with their doctor about.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Semaglutide is effective for treating both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The clinical trial results for semaglutide and obesity are more impressive in our opinion than the diabetes studies.

Patients have also given the drug a higher score for weight loss than for diabetes on Drugs.com at the time of updating this article.

The more common side effects of semaglutide are nausea and diarrhea, but the drug also may increase risk of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer.

Semaglutide can be expensive when purchased at retail price, so it’s important that patients speak with both their doctor and health insurer to find out the most cost-effective way to access the drug.

All three of the brand-name semaglutide (Wegovy, Rybelsus, Ozempic) manufacturers have cost savings pages on their websites which we’ve linked to in this article.