Liraglutide is a safe and effective medication for treating type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity rates have tripled since 1975. In the U.S. alone, 41.9% of U.S. adults live with obesity, and two-thirds of U.S. adults are either overweight or have obesity.1,2 Obesity and being overweight are global health challenges that are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Prescription weight loss medications, such as liraglutide and semaglutide, are safe and effective medications that can lead to significant weight loss when used in conjunction with a low-calorie diet and exercise.
All medications have side effects. When determining whether a medication is safe for you, your doctor will consider your medical history, family history, genetic predisposition, and other factors to determine whether the benefits of taking a medication outweigh its risks. Having obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, resulting in up to nine years lost off the expected lifespan.3
Obesity is associated with almost 200 metabolic, mechanical, and mental health comorbidities, including the following:4
Managing your weight can help mitigate your risk for these chronic diseases. However, diet and exercise alone are not effective for many people. Weight-loss medications are intended to supplement lifestyle modifications, supporting your efforts to get your weight within a healthy range. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP1 RA) such as liraglutide and semaglutide rival bariatric surgery in terms of weight loss potential.
Liraglutide’s safety was evaluated in four 56-week clinical trials (SCALE, SCALE Obesity, Prediabetes, SCALE diabetes, SCALE maintenance). 5-8 The primary side effects were gastrointestinal.
Other side effects associated with liraglutide include:
Low blood sugar can cause irritability, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, sweating, hunger, headache, or loss of consciousness.
Yes, liraglutide is FDA-approved to treat weight loss. It was approved at a 1.8 mg dose to treat type 2 diabetes and a 3.0 mg dose to treat obesity. Initially, liraglutide was prescribed for type 2 diabetes. However, patients were losing weight as a result of taking the medication.
Clinical trials showed that weight loss was dose-dependent. The higher the dose, the greater the weight loss. This is why liraglutide is prescribed at a higher dose to treat obesity.
Never take more than your prescribed dose of liraglutide. An increased dose is also associated with more side effects.
Liraglutide’s efficacy was also evaluated in four 56-week clinical trials (SCALE, SCALE Obesity, Prediabetes, SCALE diabetes, SCALE maintenance). 5-8
Over 3,700 participants were enrolled in a 56-week, double-blind clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of liraglutide for weight loss. Participants did not have type 2 diabetes and had an average BMI of 38.3.
Participants taking liraglutide had an average weight loss of 18.5 pounds, and participants in the control group had an average weight loss of 6 pounds. Liraglutide was used as an adjunct to lifestyle modifications.
Participants in clinical trials will commonly regain weight after discontinuing liraglutide and semaglutide. Researchers tested the safety and effectiveness of extending liraglutide treatment for an additional two years. Liraglutide helped the study participants maintain their weight loss over two years and improved cardiovascular risk factors.
The most common drug-related side effect was mild-to-moderate, transient nausea and vomiting. Overall, the long-term use of liraglutide is well-tolerated.
Yes, people who do not have diabetes can take liraglutide. Liraglutide is approved to treat type-2 diabetes and obesity.
Suitable candidates for liraglutide include people with the following body mass index measurements:
• 30 kg/m2 or greater (obesity) or
• 27 kg/m2 or greater (overweight) with at least one weight-related medical condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or abnormal blood lipids.
Liraglutide should be used with lifestyle modifications, such as a low-calorie nutritious diet and an exercise plan incorporating movement throughout the day.
In response to food, l-cells in the gastrointestinal tract secrete GLP-1, a polypeptide incretin hormone. Liraglutide and semaglutide are both GLP-1 agonists.
Liraglutide and semaglutide both trigger the same effects in the body, including:
Both of these prescription weight-loss medications can support your weight-loss efforts while consuming a low-calorie, nutritious diet and incorporating exercise throughout your day. Liraglutide and semaglutide are both available by prescription only. Learn more about these treatment options to determine whether they are right for you by contacting one of the health professionals at Invigor Medical.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
1. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Obesity Update 2017. Accessed August 13, 2022. https://www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf
2. Stierman B, Afful, J., Carroll, M. D., Chen, T.-C., Davy, O., Fink, S., Fryar, C. D. H., Gu, Q., Hales, C. M., Hughes, J. P., Ostchega, Y., Storandt, R. J., & Akinbami, L. J. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2017–March 2020 Prepandemic Data Files—Development of Files and Prevalence Estimates for Selected Health Outcomes. Vol. 158. 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr158-508.pdf
3. Grover SA, Kaouache M, Rempel P, et al. Years of life lost and healthy life-years lost from diabetes and cardiovascular disease in overweight and obese people: a modelling study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2015 2015;3(2):114-122. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(14)70229-3
4. Yuen M, Lui D, Kaplan L. A systematic review and evaluation of current evidence reveals 195 obesity-associated disorders (OBAD). Obesity Week. 2016.
5. Wadden TA, Hollander P, Klein S, et al. Weight maintenance and additional weight loss with liraglutide after low-calorie-diet-induced weight loss: The SCALE Maintenance randomized study. International Journal of Obesity. 2013 2013;37(11):1443-1451. doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.120
6. le Roux CW, Astrup A, Fujioka K, et al. 3 years of liraglutide versus placebo for type 2 diabetes risk reduction and weight management in individuals with prediabetes: a randomised, double-blind trial. The Lancet. 2017;389(10077):1399-1409. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30069-7
7. Davies MJ, Bergenstal R, Bode B, et al. Efficacy of Liraglutide for Weight Loss Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: The SCALE Diabetes Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015;314(7):687-699. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.9676
8. Pi-Sunyer X, Astrup A, Fujioka K, et al. A Randomized, Controlled Trial of 3.0 mg of Liraglutide in Weight Management. New England Journal of Medicine. 2015 2015;373(1):11-22. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1411892