28th May 2024

What your doctor wants you to know about weight loss medications

Weight loss medications are becoming increasingly popular and accessible for those who are struggling to lose weight through diet and exercise alone. Brand names of GLP-1 receptor agonist medications like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro are now widely known and are increasing in availability via private prescription for weight loss. However, it’s critical to get a health professional’s oversight before you consider these drugs for yourself.

In this article, we’re asking Dr Patrick Garratt, a GP with over 20 years’ experience and a special interest in diabetes and weight loss, what he wants people to know if they’re considering using these medications as a tool for weight loss. He says with limited time in a doctor’s consultation, it’s near impossible to tell patients all they need to know before starting to use GLP-1 weight loss medications, but being informed from the outset will help patients decide if they are right for them, manage their expectations and get the most out of the drugs.

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How do weight loss medications work?

Weight loss medications, which were originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, predominantly have an effect on the brain that reduces appetite. As a result of slowed digestion, reduced appetite and reduced gut motility, they can be effective for weight loss. Dr Patrick adds: “These new medications are currently injectable medications – you have to inject yourself either once a day or once a week. It’s one of those things that patients should discuss with their doctor or chemist prior to using.”

What are the side effects?

As with any medications, weight loss medications do come with their risks of side effects. They range from common side effects like nausea, headaches, constipation, fatigue, and vomiting to less common, but still associated risks such as thyroid cancer, gallstones, pancreatitis, kidney failure, serious allergic reactions, and depression. “You should certainly be discussing the side effects with your practitioner and understand that they are not insignificant. Consider whether or not you do want to go down this route,” shares Dr Patrick.

Do I need to change my diet?

With reduced appetite and rapid weight loss comes the risk of malnutrition and loss of muscle mass. It’s therefore essential to adopt a diet high in protein, fibre and healthy fats, like a Mediterranean-style diet, to ensure you’re staying properly nourished and maintaining lean muscle mass. Dr Patrick advises that “it is essential to eat the right foods and still have a nutritionally balanced diet. This involves patients primarily dropping their carbohydrate intake, eating vegetables for fibre and vitamins, but very importantly, increasing their protein intake, which is very important in terms of maintaining lean muscle mass.” Furthermore, as side effects include gut-related issues and nausea, a diet high in fibre and protein can help ease these discomforts.

If you need help tracking your nutrition, The Fast 800 Programme has helpful meal plans and recipes to keep you properly nourished, whether you’re considering weight loss medications or not.

How can you limit loss of muscle mass?

It’s not uncommon to lose a significant amount of muscle mass while using GLP-1 weight loss medications, which has critical health impacts and can be challenging to build back up. Dr Patrick informs that “it is particularly important that people do resistance training to maintain lean muscle mass. These workouts don’t need to take long. They can be less than 20 minutes and be done in peoples’ living rooms. A number of these exercises can be found on The Fast 800 Programme.”

Are these drugs as good as they sound?

Although weight loss medication is rising in popularity, there are still a lot of misconceptions about these drugs. Many think that it’s a fix-all solution for weight loss, negating the need for a focus on diet and exercise, however that simply isn’t the case. “I’ve heard many people, and the media, talk about these new medications as wonder drugs,” shares Dr Patrick “I don’t think there’s any drug that I’ve come across that is actually a wonder drug that is revolutionary. What I see with patients is sometimes they expect a little bit too much from weight loss medications.”

What happens when you stop using them?

Dr Patrick warns that “when somebody stops taking these medications, unfortunately the effects also wear off instantly. That means that for the treatment of diabetes, blood sugars can rise once again. In terms of weight loss management, it does mean that the weight can go back on.” It’s therefore important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to help make the transition as easy on your body as possible, and to keep up the weight loss results.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that for long-term weight loss and health benefits, while weight loss medications can be a great tool for the right people, you cannot rely on them alone; adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle is key. Dr Patrick reflects that “as a GP, I have limited time with my patients, therefore I’m unable to go into detail about their diet, their nutrition and their exercise. If I had more time, I would certainly be prioritising people’s diet, their nutrition, how they can maintain their appropriate amount of protein and vitamins, alongside exercise. That is why I’ve found The Fast 800 has been very useful to both me and my patients in helping them with these aspects of their new regime.”

For more information about weight loss medications, sign up to our free email series by clicking the link below for doctors’ insights straight to your inbox.

“I have a number of patients with diabetes who really struggle losing weight. Sometimes they expect a little bit too much from the medications. As a GP, I have limited time with my patients. If I had more time, I would certainly prioritise their diet and exercise.” That is why I’ve found The Fast 800 has been very useful to both me and my patients in helping them make those changes.”

Dr Patrick Garratt, GP and diabetes and weight loss specialist

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