POSTED: 9 Jul 2023

The Truth About Weight Loss Injections: How Drugs Like Ozempic Work & What to Expect

Recently, semaglutide and similar weight loss injections or fat loss injections have gained a lot of attention as a solution to shedding pounds. Initially developed to treat Type 2 Diabetes, these injections are increasingly viewed as a safe and effective way to lose weight and have been championed by a large number of celebrities and public figures. The main weight loss injections available in the UK are Ozempic, Wegovy and Saxenda. In this post we explore what exactly are wight loss injections, how they work and if they are truly a safe and effective way to lose weight.

What are Weight Loss Injections?

Weight loss injections are a type of medical treatment designed to aid weight loss. They contain medication that influences the body’s metabolism or control appetite. This encourages weight loss. The two best known brands in the UK are Wegovy and Ozempic. They work by targeting hormones that affect your appetite and metabolism.

The most popular weight loss injectable drug at the moment is semaglutide injections. These are better known by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy. Semaglutide works by mimicking the effects of is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). This hormone is released after eating and it suppresses appetite. GLP-1 increases the feeling of fullness and slows down the rate at which food is digested. Another type of weight loss injection avialble in the UK is liraglutide. This is also known by the brand name Saxenda. Liraglutide works in a similar way to semaglutide to mimic the effects of GLP-1.

These injections are typically prescribed alongside a balanced diet and regular physical activity. The aim is to use them as part of a comprehensive weight management program. They are not a stand-alone solution for weight loss. Rather, they are an aid to help those who struggle with weight management despite diet and exercise.

How Do Weight Loss Injections Work?

As mentioned above, weight loss injections work by altering the body’s metabolism or appetite. In effect, these injections work by helping curb hunger and reducing calorie intake. These medications also have an effect on insulin production and blood sugar regulation. This is why they can be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Semaglutides like Wegovy and Ozempic as well as liraglutides like Saxenda mimic the effects of a hormone found in your body (GLP-1). They they bind GLP-1 receptors found on cells in the pancreas, brain and other parts of the body. This triggers a series of signalling pathways that in the pancreas. Thus leading to the release of insulin and the suppression of glucagon. Insulin is a hormone that helps to lower blood sugar levels. Glucagon is a hormone that helps to raise blood sugar levels. By suppressing glucagon and promoting insulin secretion, weight loss injections help to lower blood sugar levels. This promotes weight loss.

These medicines also have a number of other effects that can help weight loss. They work on the brain to suppress appetite and increase the feeling of fullness after eating. They also slow down the rate at which you digest food which also reduces appetite.

Do Weight Loss Injections Really Work & How Much Weight Can You Lose?

The amount of weight you can lose with weight loss injections does vary. It depends on a number of factors, including your individual body chemistry, your starting weight and how well you follow the treatment plan.

What The Trials Show

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people who took weight loss injections lost an average of 5-10% of their body weight over a 6-12 month period. In clinical trials reported by Wegovy, participants lost an average of 14.9% of their body weight or roughly 35lbs over a 68-week period. In clinical studies of patients using Ozempic for type 2 diabetes, participants lost up to 14lbs over a 40-week period. Participants on Saxenda, on the other hand, lost an average of 9.2% of their body weight or 21lbs over a 56-week period.

It is important to note that these are just average results, and some people may lose more or less weight. Equally important is the fact that you need to continue using these injections to keep your results. This is because the appetite suppressing effects are only present when you are using the injections. Additionally, the amount of weight you lose with weight loss injections may not be the same as the amount of weight you keep off. There is still on-going research on the long-term total weight loss and maintenance of results on these injections. That’s why it is important to continue making healthy lifestyle changes. This includes eating a balanced nutritious diet and regular exercise to support your weight loss.

Risks & Side Effects of Weight Loss Injections

Like any medication, weight loss injections come with many potential side effects. Some are transient and mild whilst others maybe severe and life-threateing.

Key Risks & Side Effects

Common side effects include nausea, diarrhoea, constipation and vomiting. These side effects are usually mild and tend to subside over time as your body adjusts to the medication.

More serious side effects can include pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, kidney injury and increased heart rate. These can lead to illness, hospitalisation or even death.

Ozempic Face

Ozempic face is a term that describes the loss of fat in the face that occurs as a side effect of using any weight loss injections. It can give a hollow or gaunt appearance and your skin may appear saggier, more wrinkled and less pliable. Whilst Ozempic face is not a side-effect but a consequence of losing a lot of weight, there are a few possible ways to prevent or reduce its appearance. Possible treatments for Ozempic face include:

  • Changing the dosage of your weight loss injections: your doctor may recommend reducing the dosage of your wight loss injections or even the brand if you are on something with a higher dose if you have significant Ozempic face.
  • Improving your skincare routine: if there is a reduction in the youthfulness and vitality of your skin, you might benefit from active skincare products like Tretinoin or other retinoids, Vitamin C and exfoliating acids. Although these won’t restore the lost volume, they will help increase collagen and elastic production by your skin as well as smooth and even out your skin tone. The result is brighter, plumper and younger looking skin which can help reduce the noticeability of Ozempic face.
  • Skin boosters and facial fillers: Profhilo, Volite and other skin boosters can help tighten and hydrate the skin in a similar way to the above mentioned anti-ageing skincare products. Facial dermal fillers can also restore volume to the face and reduce the appearance of Ozempic face.

Psychological Impact

Whilst not technically a side effect, some people find that they lose interest in and ability to enjoy food. This is because these injections work by suppressing your appetite. So whilst the treatment may give the intended effect, it does mean that patients may find this unintended outcome has a negative effect on their social life and psychological well-being.

As you can see there are a number of risks and side effects associated with weight loss injections that you should think about. It’s important to discuss these potential risks with your healthcare provider before starting treatment and immediately contact them if you experience any side-effects once starting treatment.

Which Weight Loss Injections Are Approved in the UK?

There are several brands of weight loss injections available in the UK, including Semaglutide, Wegovy and Ozempic. The OG weight loss injection is Semaglutide. This is sold under the brand name Ozempic. It is an injectable medication that has approval to manage type 2 diabetes. It also aids weight loss and basically kicked of the weight loss injections trend. Ozempic is a once weekly injection.

Whilst Ozempic is primarily approved for treating type 2 Diabetes, both Wegovy and Saxenda were specifically approved for just weight loss. Wegovy is also a semaglutide once-weekly injection. It is basically a higher dose version of Ozempic. However, the difference is that Wegovy has specific approval for weight management for individuals struggling with obesity or weight related health conditions. Saxenda also has approval for weight management in obese and over weight adults in the UK. Like Wegovy and Ozempic, it is also a GLP-1 receptor agonist. However Saxenda is a liraglutide which is a different class of drug. It is a once daily injection.

Where To Get Weight Loss Injections in the UK

Weight loss injections are prescription-only medications in the UK. This means that you need to see a specialist doctor to start treatment. Your doctor will be able to assess your individual needs and help you decide if weight loss injections are right for you and which (if any) is best for you. They will likely take a detailed medical history and examine you. They may also request blood tests or other diagnostics to ensure that weight loss injections are safe for you.

NHS Weight Loss Injections

Some weight loss injections may be available through the NHS, but this does depend on your individual circumstances. In general, the NHS may prescribe weight loss injections to people who meet a number of criteria including:

  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or a BMI of 27 or higher with at least one weight related medical condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.
  • Having tried and failed to lose weight through other means, such as diet and exercise.
  • Being willing to make lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise to maintain weight loss.

The NHS will also consider other factors when deciding whether to prescribe weight loss injections, such as your age, past medical history and other medications you are taking.

Private Weight Loss Clinics

In the UK, you can also get weight loss injections through private weight loss clinics. Private clinics often have a more flexible criteria for offering weight loss injections compared with the NHS. That being said, they still have a duty of care to patients. As such they have to prescribe responsibly. To ensure you are in the right hands, it’s crucial to check that any clinic you use is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC regulates private weight loss clinics to ensure they deliver safe and effective treatments.

Controversies Surrounding Weight Loss Injections

Despite the proven effectiveness of Semaglutide weight loss injections, they are not without controversy. Critics argue that these injections promote a ‘quick fix’ culture. There is fear that they undermine the importance of a balanced diet and regular physical activity for healthy sustainable weight loss. There is also concern that some private clinics are prescribing weight loss injections to people who are not over weight. This may then trigger or worsen eating disorders. Additionally, because these drugs are new, we don’t know the long-term effects of these injections yet. This raises questions about the safety and benefit of long term use. In particular there are questions on how the affect users who are not excessively overweight or obese and who could lose weight through traditional methods.

Finally, there’s the issue of access and cost. Semaglutide weight loss injections, especially brand name options like Saxenda, Wegovy, and Ozempic can be expensive. They are not routinely available on the NHS for weight loss. Instead you will most likely need to access them through a private clinic. Privately, weight loss injections can cost anything between £150-400 per month In the UK. This puts them out of reach for many individuals in particular since you need to use them permanently to maintain the weight loss.

Weight loss injections, such as Semaglutide, Saxenda, Wegovy and Ozempic, offer a promising aid in the battle against obesity and related health conditions. However, like any medical treatment, they come with potential risks and side effects. If you’re considering weight loss injections, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive discussion with a specialist doctor about the potential benefits and risks. They can also guide you towards additional options for weight management. These include diet and lifestyle changes that you can use alongside or instead of medication.

Remember, whilst weight loss injections like Semaglutides can be a useful tool, they are not a magic bullet. Sustainable weight loss and better health come from a combination of things. This includes a good diet, regular physical activity, enough sleep and stress management. Of course, in some cases, medication or surgery can also help play an important part. Healthy lifestyle changes will help increase the gain you get from them. It will also help you improve your overall health and help sustain the weight loss.


Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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