In a finding experts have praised as game-changing, a weekly dose of a diabetic medicine appears to lead to significant weight loss in obese persons.
According to the World Health Organization, obesity kills 1.2 million people in Europe each year, with the United Kingdom having one of the highest obesity rates.
Diet and exercise have long been used to combat the disease, but many people who lose weight this way eventually gain it back.
Researchers now claim that if diabetic medicine is used in conjunction with other obesity treatments, it can help people lose weight. A 72-week trial found that participants dropped up to 20% of their body weight.
An multinational team reports in the New England Journal of Medicine that they randomly divided 2,539 overweight or obese volunteers into four equal groups.
The first group received a self-administered placebo injection once a week for 72 weeks, while the other three received either 5mg, 10mg, or 15mg of tirzepatide. Regular lifestyle counselling sessions were also provided to all participants in order to help them stick to low-calorie meals and at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Participants weighed an average of 104.8kg (16.5 stone), with 94.5 percent being obese. None of the women were diabetic, and the majority were white and female.
Participants given 5mg of tirzepatide each week lost an average of 16.1kg, those given 10mg lost an average of 22.2kg, and those given 15mg lost an average of 23.6kg at the end of the 72-week period, according to the results of those who stuck to the assigned intervention (nearly 82 percent of the sample). A placebo injection resulted in a 2.4kg weight loss on average.
According to the researchers, 91 percent of those given the highest dose of tirzepatide lost 5 percent or more of their body weight, compared to 35 percent of those given the placebo. In comparison to 3% of those who received the placebo, 57% of those who received the highest dose dropped 20% or more of their body weight.
“We should treat obesity the same way we treat any chronic disease: with effective and safe approaches that target underlying disease mechanisms,” said Dr. Ania Jastreboff of Yale University, who was the lead author of the study, which was presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 82nd Scientific Sessions.
The research comes after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom approved the use of semaglutide for select groups of obese persons in February.
Prof Rachel Batterham, an obesity expert at University College London who was not involved in the study, said tirzepatide, like semaglutide, operated by imitating hormones in the body that help individuals feel full after eating and are commonly at low levels in obese people.
While semaglutide only mimics one hormone, tirzepatide mimics two, which could explain why the latter appears to have a stronger effect.
“Weight loss is all about bettering one’s health.” If you want to improve the most difficult problems of obesity, you’ll need to lose 15-20 percent of your body weight. “We need considerably more weight loss than we can achieve and sustain with diet alone if we want to improve someone’s heart failure or get rid of their obstructive sleep apnoea, minimize their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease,” Batterham said.
Higher doses of tirzepatide resulted in more weight loss, but they also caused more side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, according to Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, while the effects on the pancreas were a major concern with this class of drug.
“This family of medications only works if the participants follow the drug’s reduced-calorie diet, so it’s not a magic bullet,” he explained.
There were additional difficulties, according to Dr Simon Cork, a senior lecturer in physiology at Anglia Ruskin University.
“These medications are game-changers in the obesity sector,” he said, “but they only work for as long as the drug is taken.” “The current advice to Nice on semaglutide is to take it for a maximum of two years, after which it will no longer be available.” We know that for many people, this will result in a reversal of weight loss effects, and the same is likely to be true for tirzepatide.”
The current findings are good news, according to Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow who was not involved in the study.
He did say, though, that tirezpatide, like semaglutide, would be costly for a long time and that its usage would be limited at first.
“The introduction of these new treatments does not imply that people should abandon their lifestyles,” he stated. “It is far better to prevent obesity in the first place than to cure it afterwards when a great deal of damage has already been done.”
“Fortunately, as we learn more about what works best, techniques to assist people modify their diet evolve.” However, because enhancing the food environment would have the greatest impact, it should continue to be a priority for Government.
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