Ozempic, Wegovy and other GLP-1 medications: Powerful tools for weight loss, made better when paired with a healthy lifestyle.

There is a frenzy of attention on the new weight loss drugs like Ozempic (diabetes), Wegovy (chronic weight management), and others.  And it’s for good reason as the weight loss results are compelling with these GLP-1 receptor agonist medications.   Based on their popularity for treating diabetes and for general weight loss, they appear here to stay. And with 73% of American adults being overweight or obese, the need is great.

These drugs work because they help reduce your appetite.  With the satiety (or feeling of fullness) that these drugs create, people tend to eat less over the course of the day. This is where complementing the medication with lifestyle change comes in.  When eating fewer calories per day, it becomes even more important to make sure you’re feeding yourself with healthy meals and not empty calories. And behavior change around nutrition and exercise can yield significant impact.  Research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on 40,308 people in Colorado participating in incentaHEALTH’s Weigh and Win program found that over 71% of active participants (those weighing in on the HEALTHspot kiosk located in the community) lost weight, with about one third of participants achieving a 5% reduction in body weight.  This 5% reduction leads to significant improvement in health outcomes due to a reduction in the numerous health risks associated with obesity.

Another factor driving the need for behavior change solutions in addition to the medications is cost, with some medications costing over $1,000 per month.   11% of American adults have type 2 diabetes.  Even more alarming, another 38% have pre-diabetes.  So 1 in 2 Americans are facing the devastating health effects of type 2 diabetes.  This is another opportunity for lifestyle change as a powerful partner to these new GLP-1 medications.

As an example approach, the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) from the CDC is a proven model for using lifestyle to achieve the 5% weight loss threshold necessary for reducing risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  This approach has found a 58% risk reduction through successful behavior change around nutrition, exercise, and overcoming barriers to success.  incentaHEALTH offers a digital version of the NDPP delivered to the home via a smartphone app and connected home scale.  The program is called #PreventDiabetes and it has been awarded full recognition from the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program by achieving the long term weight loss outcome targets set by the CDC.  The convenience of daily nutrition coaching from a Registered Dietitian, combined with daily workout plans from a Certified Personal Trainer, delivered in small doses via app and email, has proven to be a real-world solution for busy individuals who are looking to manage their weight through lifestyle change. incentaHEALTH’s virtual coaching platform was recently selected by the CDC in a nationwide search for innovation in how to keep people engaged in long term behavior change.

There’s also a mental health component to this story.  Mental health issues are at an all-time high.  Research has shown that addition of physical activity several days per week can be effective in reducing stress and anxiety.  In the analysis of multiple randomized controlled trials comparing the effectiveness of antidepressants to exercise, they found that they were equally effective.  Exercise can be medicine.  Exercise isn’t a silver bullet for all mental health issues (nothing is), but it’s a powerful tool.  Unfortunately only 24% of adults reach the recommended weekly exercise levels according to the CDC.  Said another way, 75% of us are not getting the benefits of regular movement of our bodies.  This is one more reason to highlight the power of lifestyle around nutrition and exercise.  Medication plays an important role in mental health, but it can be made even better when combined with regular exercise.