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'Ozempic breasts' to 'Ozempic face': What you need to know about weight loss drug side effects

From ‘Ozempic Face’ to ‘Ozempic Breasts’: Everything you need to know about Ozempic for weight loss
From ‘Ozempic Face’ to ‘Ozempic Breasts’: Everything you need to know about Ozempic for weight loss Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Imane El Atillah
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While many people suffering from obesity have been using Ozempic to help with weight loss, health professionals are warning of potential side effects.

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For more than a year, there has been a rising trend in using diabetes drugs such as Ozempic solely for its weight loss effect.

As with any medication, there are potential risks of side effects that you may or may not have been aware of initially.

For instance, in 2023, American Jaclyn Bjorklund launched legal proceedings against Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly and Co, the manufacturers of Ozempic and Mounjaro respectively, alleging severe gastrointestinal complications, particularly gastroparesis characterised by a paralysis of the stomach.

The personal injury law firm that filed the lawsuit argued that these diabetes medications, which gained popularity for assisting in weight loss, did not disclose the particular complication experienced by Bjorklund to medical professionals.

Although Ozempic can be effective for weight loss, its use is not without risks to health, with new side effects continuing to surface.

As increasing numbers of individuals achieve their desired weight loss outcomes, they are also observing notable changes in their physical appearance, leading to the emergence of terms like "Ozempic face" and "Ozempic breasts".

Understanding Ozempic and its side effects

Ozempic, a brand name for the drug semaglutide, was primarily formulated to help individuals manage their blood sugar levels. Administered as a weekly injection, it functions by aiding the pancreas in insulin production.

It [semaglutide] also works on receptors in the stomach to slow stomach emptying, which means you feel much more full and satisfied with smaller portions.
Dr Christopher McGowan
Gastroenterologist and obesity medicine specialist

"Semaglutide works through a mechanism of action whereby it increases levels of a hormone in the body called Glucagon-like peptide 1 or GLP-1," said Dr Christopher McGowan, a gastroenterologist, obesity medicine specialist, and the founder of US-based True You Weight Loss medical centre.

According to McGowan normal circulating levels of GLP-1 promote the release of insulin after a meal, and reduce the release of glucagon, a hormone that increases blood sugar, hence its effectiveness in treating diabetes.

GLP-1 is a hormone with multifaceted roles. While it’s important in the regulation of blood glucose, it also directly influences hunger cues which promotes weight loss.

According to McGowan, the hormone GLP-1 acts on the brain’s hunger centres to curb appetite.

"It also works on receptors in the stomach to slow stomach emptying, which means you feel much more full and satisfied with smaller portions," he explained.

However, whether Ozempic is used for the treatment of diabetes or weight management, the drug has inherent side effects.

"And in fact, many of the side effects are directly related to the mechanism of action of semaglutide," he told Euronews Next.

According to Ozempic's official website, nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhoea, dizziness, and vomiting are among the most common reactions to the drug.

While these symptoms represent the drug's official side effects, users of Ozempic are reporting a range of unexpected changes to their body after taking it.

Essentially, many patients notice that the skin on the face, buttocks, and other areas can appear loose, sagging, or aged, after using Ozempic which causes cosmetic concerns for many.

'Ozempic breasts, face and butt'

Terms such as "Ozempic breasts," "Ozempic face," and "Ozempic butt," have been used to describe these results, which doctors have linked to extreme weight loss triggered by GLP-1 medications.

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"These terms like Ozempic face, Ozempic butt are basically describing the changes people see after using Ozempic, and it's not really a function of the medicine, but more an effect of weight loss," Dr Mir Ali, bariatric surgeon, and medical director of the Weight Loss Center at the Orange Coast Medical Center in California, told Euronews Next.

Ali explained that this effect is not inherent to using Ozempic for weight loss, but is a normal result to people who lose weight by any means including surgery, and the use of medications.

According to Ali, the areas of the body that will show the most changes and sagging following weight loss differ based on where the person stores more fat.

For example, women’s breast tissues contain a lot of fat and they tend to store fat in their lower body more so they are more likely to notice changes in those areas.

However, the degree of the sagging and the changes differ and depends on many factors.

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"A lot of that depends on the age of the patient, how overweight they were when they started their weight loss journey, and how much weight they've lost," Ali said.

According to Ali, people with more elasticated skin are more likely to see their skin shrink back with the weight loss, while others are more prone to experience different degrees of skin sagging and appearing loose.

These terms like Ozempic face, Ozempic butt are basically describing the changes people see after using Ozempic, and it's not really a function of the medicine, but more an effect of weight loss.
Dr Mir Ali
Bariatric surgeon

"Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be really done to prevent that because that is part of the process of the weight loss," Ali said.

"Things like exercise, building muscle can help to some extent, but a lot of it depends on how elastic the skin is, how overstretched the skin is. That will determine how loose it is after the patient loses weight," he added.

While more and more people have been using Ozempic for weight loss purposes, McGowan pointed out that the drug is primarily designed for the treatment of type two diabetes only.

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However, a similar drug under the brand name Wegovy which contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic, semaglutide, is FDA-approved for the treatment of obesity.

'Weight regain is nearly inevitable'

Despite Ozempic’s effectiveness in inducing weight loss, patients risk regaining weight when they discontinue the medications, due to the body returning to its normal processes.

McGowan explained that once the medication is no longer present in the body “normal levels of GLP-1 and appetite can come back quite rapidly, and so that can lead to weight regain, which is essentially the norm”.

According to McGowan, clinical studies have shown that patients who stop the medication typically regain two-thirds of their lost weight within a year.

Weight regain varies among patients, with some regaining faster than others. Some even regain more than they have lost while being on Ozempic.

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"Ultimately, without that tool of the medication, weight regain is nearly inevitable," he said.

He further explained that while diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes are the foundation for sustainable weight loss, patients suffering from obesity might require more significant measures to maintain weight loss over the long term.

"For some people, that may be medication, for other individuals, that may be a procedural intervention," he said.

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