Semaglutide ‘Highly Effective’ for Weight Loss in Teens: Study

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July 10, 2023 – Almost half of teenagers with obesity taking the popular drug semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) lost enough weight over almost a year a half to move to an overweight or healthy body mass index, or BMI, category. 

Compared to just 12% of 67 teenagers receiving a placebo or dummy shot, 45% of 133 adolescents taking semaglutide changed BMI groups in a study. The shots were given once a week under the skin. 

BMI is not an exact measure but is used as a general guide. It is calculated using height and weight. Obesity is defined, for example, as a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more, where kg is the weight of a person in kilograms and m2 is their height in meters, squared. 

Teenagers in this BMI class taking Wegovy or Ozempic were 23 times more likely to end up with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, defined as overweight, or a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 or a healthy weight. 

The researchers called semaglutide “highly effective” for changing BMI status in teenagers. 

As impressive as the results were, Aaron S. Kelly, PhD, of the Department of Pediatrics and Center for Pediatric Obesity Medicine at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues emphasized that exercise and lifestyle changes are required along with anti-obesity medication to get the best results. 

The research was not designed to specifically look at health benefits. But the researchers found teenagers who moved at least two BMI categories had more improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight circumference (a measure of fat around your middle), for example, compared to others.

The study was published in the journal Obesity. Kelly and colleagues wrote that their study supports starting anti-obesity medications earlier to help teenagers with obesity. 

The study follows a few months behind controversial guidelines from the American Academy of  Pediatrics. In January 2023, the group called for more aggressive treatment of obesity or overweight in children and teenagers. The guidance sparked controversy because the academy recommends anti-obesity medications and weight loss surgery for some older kids.