New study shows how to quit Ozempic and avoid rebound weight gain

February 28, 2024

After helping countless Hollywood stars shrink in size, Ozempic has been heralded as the weight-loss miracle for which many have been waiting their whole lives. Of course, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. As Ozempic and other similar medications have risen in fame, some patients have noted that the medicine eventually stops working for weight loss, while fitness personality Jillian Michaels has warned that it makes you a “prisoner for life.”

But now, a new study is showing that it may be possible to quit Ozempic and still keep the weight off, reports Best Life.

Over the past year, people nationwide. have gotten prescriptions for GLP-1 medications like Ozempic, Wegovy, Zepbound, and Mounjaro, for weight loss. (Some of these drugs are approved to treat obesity, while others are diabetes drugs prescribed off-label.) Amid the skyrocketing demand for these medications, employer-health plans have started tightening requirements or dropping coverage—and that has created a concerning predicament for patients who can no longer afford the medication, but are worried about regaining the weight they’ve lost, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Christine Haywood, a 41-year-old resident of Long Beach, California, told the newspaper that she had lost about 60 pounds after a year on her GLP-1 medication. But when she stopped taking it in the fall because her manufacturer savings card had expired, she regained 8 to 10 pounds in a month and a half.

“I went into a panic, and during that time it was like my body was spiraling,” she said, noting that she has since gotten insurance approval for Wegovy and has re-lost the weight. “I had all this success. Now what if I just go backwards?”

This is not a unique or unfounded fear. A 2022 study funded by Ozempic- and Wegovy-maker Novo Nordisk found that patients regained two-thirds of the weight they had lost on the drugs just one year after they stopped taking semaglutide injections.

“GLP-1 medications [such as Ozempic and Wegovy] work in part by suppressing appetite,” William Dixon, MD, physician, clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, and the co-founder of Signos, previously explained to Best Life. “People who stop the medicine sometimes feel like their appetite comes roaring back—a double effect with hormonal changes due to weight loss.”

But a new study published on February 19 in the eClinicalMedicine journal is proving that not everyone is doomed to gain weight back after they stop taking their medication.

The study, which was led by experts at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, involved a randomized controlled trial of 109 adults with obesity. The participants were randomly split into four groups. One of the groups was given liraglutide—a type of GLP-1 drug similar to semaglutide—injections for a year. Another group was also given liraglutide injections for a year, but was assigned a moderate-to-vigorous monitored exercise plan for two hours a week during the trial.

Neither of the last two groups was given weight-loss injections, but one underwent a supervised exercise plan similar to the second group, while the final group underwent no specific weight-loss plan.

A year after the trial was concluded, researchers checked up on all of the groups to see how they were managing their weight on their own. They found that the group who had only taken liraglutide injections ended up regaining about two-thirds of their initial weight loss, which is in line with what Novo Nordisk’s study found.

On the other hand, those who were given both injections and an exercise plan during the trial fared the best overall. Many of the patients in this group were able to maintain a weight loss of at least 10% of their initial body weight one year after the trial was over, according to the study.

“It is actually possible to stop taking the medication without large weight regain, if you follow a structured exercise regimen,” Signe Sørensen Torekov, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences who led the new study, said in a statement.

“Our study offers new hope, as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination.”

Research contact: @bestlife