Are you looking into potential medication options to treat your type 2 diabetes or help with weight loss? GLP-1 medications could be an option. We’ll go over all the important details, from what a GLP-1 is to how it works and the potential side effects.
GLP-1 is the short-form term for glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists, which may also be called GLP-1 receptor agonists, incretin mimetics, or GLP-1 analogs. They belong to a class of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes by managing high blood sugar levels. They are also often effective at treating obesity.
While GLP-1 agonists were initially developed for treating type 2 diabetes, they have also been found to help with weight loss in patients with overweight or obesity, with and without type 2 diabetes. Some GLP-1 medications have been approved as weight management treatments, while others may be prescribed off-label.
GLP-1 receptor agonists work by stimulating the body’s insulin secretion. In individuals with type 2 diabetes, the body cannot use the insulin produced naturally, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise after eating. The GLP-1 medication will then help bring blood sugar levels back down.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity. Approximately 86% of people with type 2 diabetes also have overweight or obesity. Weight loss can be an effective tool for managing or improving diabetes. Not only do GLP-1 medications lower blood sugar levels, but they also encourage weight loss, which is often helpful for controlling and treating type 2 diabetes.
The weight loss caused by taking GLP-1 medications may be linked to the slowed gastric emptying resulting from GLP-1 agonists. Since the medication slows down the process by which nutrients are digested and moved from the stomach through the digestive system, patients often feel more full, from less food, for a longer time. This often leads to reduced food intake and, potentially, weight loss. GLP-1 medications should be combined with intentional eating choices and physical activity for the most effective weight management results.
Some of the potential benefits of GLP-1 medications may include:
Here are some of the most commonly reported side effects of GLP-1 medications:
GLP-1 medications should not be prescribed to patients who are pregnant. They are also not recommended for patients with a history of pancreatitis. GLP-1 medications should be discontinued if pancreatitis occurs while taking the medication. Patients with a personal or family history of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) or medullary thyroid cancer should not be prescribed GLP-1 medications.
Once a patient starts taking a GLP-1 medication, they should have regular appointments with their healthcare provider in order to monitor their blood glucose levels, weight, kidney function, and any signs of pancreatitis.
Most GLP-1 medications are taken by subcutaneous injection. However, there is one type of GLP-1 medication, semaglutide, which also comes in an oral form. Since some GLP-1 agonists are fast and some are slow, the frequency with which they should be taken varies.
Here is a list of the GLP-1 medications currently on the market, along with how often they should be taken:
In general, patients will be started on a low dose, gradually increasing depending on their blood sugar levels.
Now that you know everything there is to know about GLP-1 receptor agonists and what they do, the next step is to talk to a Felix healthcare practitioner to find out whether a GLP-1 prescription is a good choice for you.
The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.