Weight gain and diabetes are two issues that go hand in hand. Recent research has shown that a popular and effective type 2 diabetes medication, Tirzepatide, has been incredibly effective at helping patients lose weight. Tirzepatide is the first combination medication approved to treat diabetes and obesity and has now been proven to combat excess weight more effectively than many other weight loss medications. Several medications for type 2 diabetes have been used to manage weight, most notably those in the GLP -1 receptor agonist category. However, none of the previous generations of drugs has shown the same sustainable results as Tirzepatide, a prescription GLP-1 drug more commonly known as Mounjaro.
How does tirzepatide work?
Tirzepatide is the first-in-its-class drug and the only drug currently available
that acts as both a glucagon-like peptide (GLP 1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) receptor agonist. Several medications are GLP – 1 receptor agonists that have been used for years as treatments for diabetes. Many of them have been approved to help manage weight; however, tirzepatide is the only drug that is both a GLP-1 and GIP combination drug, and it has shown to be incredibly effective at helping patients lose weight and keep it off.
Part of the reason that the drug is so particularly effective is that it can assist the body in breaking down foods with high sugar content, such as carbohydrates and sweets, which cause the body to gain weight and also cause irregular glucose production. By slowing down the digestive process and regulating glucose production, the body can burn more fat and store less of the sugars from carbohydrates and sweets as fat.
What is a receptor agonist?
Two agents impact how different cell receptors behave in the body: receptor agonists and receptor antagonists. Receptor antagonists block cells from performing a certain function; this means receptor antagonists block or weaken certain biological functions that the body performs, such as producing certain substances.
Conversely, a receptor agonist attaches to cell receptors and promotes them to perform a certain function, such as improving the natural production of insulin throughout the body. In the case of tirzepatide, the receptor agonist binds to cell receptors to improve the body’s natural insulin production to help manage diabetes while producing other beneficial effects.
Tirzepatide is an artificial chemical specifically made to assist with the body’s production of insulin and lower the amount of glucagon the body produces. Glucagon is a substance produced by the body in the pancreas that helps the body break down glycogen into glucose which is why it is an effective medication for those with type 2 diabetes.
This also produces two other effects. It reduces the appetite and slows down gastric emptying, or how quickly the stomach digests food, thus making people feel fuller longer, reducing hunger and cravings, and increasing metabolic calorie burn.
Is tirzepatide effective?
Studies have shown that not only is this drug effective at helping patients lose weight, it’s effective at helping them keep it off as well, marking a significant improvement over other drugs in the category that show effectiveness in initial weight loss but are less effective over the long term.
According to one study , patients lost an average of 20% of their body weight throughout the 72-week study as opposed to 3% by those in the study who were given a placebo1. The study supports the idea that the management of glucose levels, along with appetite suppression and metabolic calorie burn, help decrease intake and improve weight loss while keeping patients from gaining weight back.
It’s important to note that the study included a healthy diet and moderate exercise as part of the treatment and that while the medication may have some effect on its own, it is best if paired with the appropriate diet and exercise for the patient.
Not only was tirzepatide shown to improve weight loss, but it also showed a marked improvement in cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and the lowering of risk factors related to excess weight gain, such as waist circumference.
Is tirzepatide FDA approved for weight loss?
No. The FDA approved the drug for use in treating Type 2 diabetes . However, during several clinical trials, many participants were recorded as obese. Among these individuals, all showed significant weight loss compared to placebo, GLP-1 agonists, and long-standing diabetes medications, with average weight loss ranging from 12 to 29 pounds.
While weight loss cannot be guaranteed due to the medication alone, current studies and research have shown promising results for the medication being used solely for weight loss under medical supervision. As always, the medication is intended to be used with proper diet and exercise to maximize effectiveness.
How does a self-injectable medication work?
Tirzepatide is a self-injectable medication that comes as a liquid solution in a pre-filled pen. The medicine is meant to be injected under the skin. The pen pierces the skin and is typically injected into soft tissue. The arm’s underside and the thigh’s top are two common injection sites. The medication can be injected with or without food.
Be sure to store the medication in the provided container and at a safe temperature, as indicated by the provided safety instructions. Damage to the injector or parts could result in injury or improper administration of the drug and the potential for the drug to spoil. If the pen is damaged, discard it immediately and acquire a new one before attempting to inject the medication.
Patients with type 2 diabetes can still inject insulin and the medication. It is important to follow the prescribing advice of your doctor and not use more than your recommended dose of the medication.
What are the risks and side effects of tirzepatide?
All medications carry some risks and side effects, and it is important to understand these potential risks before taking any medication.
The most common symptom reported by patients is mild to moderate stomach pain. Additionally, all injectables risk soreness, swelling, and potential infection at the injection site.
Less common symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swallowing fast
- Irregular heartbeat
- Gaseous stomach pain
- Recurrent fever
- Skin itching
- Splotchy or red skin
- Stomach fullness
- Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Some research data2 suggests a risk of other complications, including:
- Discoloration of the skin
- Feeling of pressure
- Warmth at the injection site
Some of these side effects are non-incidental, so it is unknown if they are specifically related to the use of medication.
It is recommended that patients monitor any unusual symptoms and report them to their doctor immediately, as they could be signs of a more serious condition. Patients should also heed all health and safety warnings regarding the medication. Data regarding specific interactions with other medications is unknown, so always notify your doctor of any medications you are taking and if you have a family history of heart disease.
Be sure to alert your doctor if you have a history of allergies to the medication or any of its components or if symptoms worsen unexpectedly.
The connection between diabetes and weight
Weight has long been a key issue in the fight against diabetes. Studies show a direct correlation between being overweight or obese and developing diabetes3. Essentially, the excess body mass causes what is known as insulin resistance in organs, tissues, and the fat inside the body. Insulin resistance is the inability of parts of the body to properly process and use insulin. Your body also cannot use the glucose in your blood to produce energy.
In response, your body creates more insulin, which still cannot be used properly, which then causes blood sugar levels to go up. Over time, a steady increase in BMI also means a steady increase for problems such as metabolic disorders, fatty liver disease, prediabetes, and ultimately type 2 diabetes. This is also why it is thought that if weight can be decreased along with BMI, or the body’s overall fat content while in the early stages of prediabetes, it is actually possible to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, as BMI and insulin levels increase in the blood, metabolic function decreases, making it even harder to lose weight once it has been put on, which is why many drugs have been developed to help those with Type 2 diabetes to lose weight.
What other diabetes drugs can be used for weight loss?
Because of the connection between weight and type 2 diabetes, several medications were developed with the intent to help manage weight.
Among these medications, GLP- 1 agonists have shown the most promise for helping control weight loss. The drugs Semaglutide and Liraglutide have shown to be particularly effective in helping to manage weight amongst patients, leading to them being widely used for weight loss even among patients without type 2 diabetes.
Semaglutide was recently approved by the FDA for weight management in 2021, and Liraglutide was approved in 2014. Both medications are used at higher doses than patients with diabetes and have shown significant capabilities to help with weight loss.
Any prescribed weight loss medications should be used only as directed and are most effective when accompanied by diet and exercise.
Comparing tirzepatide to semaglutide
Both tirzepatide and semaglutide are potent drugs used to manage weight loss. There are some key differences between the drugs, however, and some of those differences make tirzepatide the more effective solution.
Both drugs are once-weekly subcutaneous injections used to treat type 2 diabetes. Both are classified as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which help them control the appetite of patients and the body’s glucose production. This helps patients to lose weight.
However, only tirzepatide is a combination GLP 1 – GIP receptor agonist. This not only makes it more effective at helping patients lose weight, but it is also more effective at helping patients keep the weight off because it improves metabolic health and slows the digestion of food. Participants lost up to 22.5% of their overall weight, and patients showed an increased ability to maintain weight loss over time, making it the more effective choice for long-term weight management than Semaglutide4.
It’s important to note that according to the research data, the weight loss comparison between Semaglutide and Tirzepatide was made with a lower dosage of Semaglutide. There is speculation that if the dosage was equivalent to Tirzepatide, then the weight loss difference between the drugs may have been more comparable, but current research is inconclusive.
What is known, however, is that Tirzepatide is currently the only drug available that is both a GLP 1 and GIP receptor agonist. It is currently first in its class regarding researched results, making it the most effective weight loss drug currently prescribed. Even patients who have tried other weight loss options and been unsuccessful have shown positive results on the medication.
While the research into Tirzepatide is still ongoing, the results are promising. Doctors are now prescribing the medication to patients with a high body mass index as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to manage weight. Even those with comorbidities and type 2 diabetes show promising results and significant weight loss with the medication.
The combination of GLP 1 and GIP receptor agonists allows the body to more easily:
- Regulate food intake
- Burn calories through exercise
- Glucose production
- Insulin production
This medication allows patients who have struggled with other weight loss methods to be more likely to lose weight.
If you are considering medication-assisted weight loss, consult your doctor about the available options and whether or not Tirzepatide is the right solution for your needs.
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