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Introduction

The market for products, supplements and drugs (prescription and otherwise) for weight loss has been growing rapidly in recent years, with thousands of different options now readily available throughout the weight loss industry. Many of these products are available to purchase online or in health food stores nationwide; some are only available through a prescription from a qualified practicing physician.

The safest products to use are generally those prescribed by your doctor as part of a monitored weight loss plan. These come with a minimal risk to your health due to being tested in many clinical trials and they can have enormous health benefits for the user. When combined with regular exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet, it can become much easier to obtain and maintain your ideal weight.

Liraglutide is one example of these prescription medications and this article will provide you with some of the information you need to understand what it is, what it does, the potential side effects and if it is right for you. This information is not a substitute for doctors’ advice so please book an appointment with your physician to discuss your options before embarking on any weight loss plan or taking new supplements or drugs.

What Is Liraglutide?

Liraglutide is an injectable weight loss drug and a derivative of the human metabolic hormone glucagon-like peptide-1. Liraglutide is used in the branded drugs Saxenda and Victoza as aids for weight loss, which can be prescribed alongside a calorie restricted diet to eligible patients who have not responded to a change of diet and exercise routine alone. The drug can be prescribed to people with a BMI of 30 or over, or those with a BMI of 27 plus at least one other weight related health condition.

Liraglutide is similar to the naturally occurring human hormone GLP-1 that is released in response to food intake. Liraglutide helps users lose weight by suppressing appetite and reducing hunger, as well as increasing feelings of satiety after eating by slowing gastric emptying, to prevent consuming a calorie surplus. Liraglutide comes in an injectable form in a pre filled syringe pen and is to be injected under the skin once a day.

Liraglutide is approved by the FDA as an appropriate medication for weight loss in cases where patients have not responded significantly to a change in diet and exercise regimen alone.

A typical Liraglutide dose is a clear, colorless or almost colorless solution. [1]

What Does Liraglutide Do?

Liraglutide is a medication with appetite suppressant and satiety increasing properties that can be prescribed by a physician in the branded form of Saxenda to promote weight loss. It has also been used in the branded medication Victoza in order to manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

How Does Liraglutide Work?

Liraglutide has several physical effects when taken to induce weight loss. Liraglutide is a known appetite suppressant that affects the central nervous system and works to stop people confusing thirst or boredom for physical hunger. The physical mechanism is the activation of a chemical similar to a human hormone that is released after food intake. Liraglutide also has the effect of making people feel full for longer by slowing down gastric emptying, reducing the likelihood of overeating. [2]

What Are The Side-Effects Of Liraglutide?

Some people taking Liraglutide for weight loss do so without experiencing any side effects; however the response varies individually. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the side effects you experience when taking Liraglutide for weight loss.

Some potential side effects of taking Liraglutide are:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Nausea and/ or vomiting
  • Upset stomach, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold and flu symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain or a sore throat
  • Back pain
  • Extreme tiredness and lethargy
  • Skin rashes and redness or a rash around the injection site
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Swelling or a lump in your throat area
  • Hoarse voice, trouble swallowing and shortness of breath
  • Urinating less than usual or not at all
  • Weakness, pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest
  • Increased thirst
  • Pancreatitis
  • Swelling or weight gain
  • Problems with the gallbladder
  • Depression or thoughts of suicide
  • Thyroid tumors and cancer

Do Not Take Liraglutide If:

  • If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant and/or breastfeeding: It is not recommended for use by pregnant or lactating women; talk to your doctor for safe weight loss alternatives if you are pregnant and concerned about your health. A study on non-human animals found that taking Liraglutide while pregnant sometimes resulted in problems with the fetus.
  • If you’re a child under the age of 18: Liraglutide for weight loss is not intended for use by persons under the age of 18. Talk to your doctor about safe weight loss alternatives for children whose weight may cause health problems.
  • You have severe renal (kidney) impairment or failure. Liraglutide may be appropriate for patients with mild or moderate renal issues; please ask your doctor for advice for your specific situation.
  • You have problems with your pancreas or liver.
  • History of angioedema, serious hypersensitivity reactions or anaphylaxis. Liraglutide is contraindicated in patients with a history of a serious hypersensitivity reaction to Liraglutide. There is a risk of serious hypersensitivity reactions or anaphylaxis with Liraglutide use. Serious hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, including anaphylaxis or angioedema. Patients with a history of angioedema or anaphylaxis to other GLP-1 receptor agonists should speak to their doctor about suitability because it is unknown whether such patients will be predisposed to serious reactions with Liraglutide.
  • You have a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC)
  • You have an endocrine system condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)

Liraglutide Dosages

The suggested dosage of Liraglutide may depend on the BMI of the patient and other health indicators (renal health for example). Each syringe pen should be set up to give a choice of doses, up to 3mg. A standard initial dose for a patient wishing to lose weight is one dose of 0.6 mg of Liraglutide, taken for one week. After the first seven days the dose may be increased to 1.2 mg, and increased each week by 0.6mg until the patient is taking the maximum dose of 3 mg daily.

After taking the drug for 30 days the patient should have a follow up appointment with their doctor to assess the efficacy of the treatment. If there has not been any significant weight loss after 16 weeks treatment should be discontinued and an alternative found. [3]

Can I Take Liraglutide With Other Medication?

There are some medications or drugs that should not be taken along with Liraglutide. These include any drugs in the group known as GLP-1 receptor agonists

You should also advise your doctor if you are taking:

  • Any other prescription or over the counter weight loss medication or herbal supplements

Is Liraglutide Safe?

When prescribed as a monitored course of medication by a qualified medical practitioner, and when there are no contraindications present (such as pregnancy or severe renal failure) Liraglutide has been found to be a safe drug to take for moderately paced weight loss.

The drug has been through a number of clinical trials and is deemed as generally safe; however side effects are possible and consumers need to be aware and monitor themselves for potentially dangerous reactions. [4]

Has Liraglutide Caused Deaths?

There have not been any deaths linked to this medication. However, an overdose could result in serious cardiovascular problems, other physical and mental problems or death.

Does Liraglutide Actually Work?

In clinical studies, 63% patients taking Liraglutide for weight loss experienced a reduction of 5% of more in body weight, compared to just 27% in the placebo group. Several large clinical trials (over 12 or more months)  have been carried out and researchers found a dose-response relationship. 33% of people in trials taking Liraglutide lost over 10% of their body weight when in conjunction with an improved diet and exercise regime.

Conclusion 

Liraglutide is a weight loss drug that works by suppressing the user’s appetite. In clinical trials the drug has delivered significant results in terms of some patients losing over 10% of their overall body weight; however, this drug is only prescribed to patients with a body mass index of 30kg/m2 or over (or 27+ with weight-related problems), and must be used in conjunction with a calorie restrictive (deficit) diet and regular exercise program.

This drug should only be prescribed by a physician if the patient has not responded to traditional dieting and exercise.

While it has been deemed safe to use over short periods of time to help tackle obesity, taking Liraglutide is not a long-term solution for weight loss. It is important to note that this drug also stimulates the central nervous systems which could lead to other adverse and as yet unknown side effects.

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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.