How Much Weight Can You Expect To Lose on Ozempic?

Woman holding up jeans that are too big for her.

Ozempic, a diabetes management medication, has been a recognizable brand for the last several years thanks to its catchy jingle. But these days, even people without Type 2 diabetes are taking the drug, also known as semaglutide.

Influencer Remi Bader said she lost weight using Ozempic but put on twice as much she dropped after stopping. And Chelsea Handler told "Call Her Daddy" podcast host Alex Cooper that she unknowingly injected the drug for weight loss.

"My anti-aging doctor just hands it out to anybody," the comedian told Cooper. "I didn't even know I was on it."

There's been a shortage of the drug ever since it made headlines for off-label weight loss use. But is Ozempic effective for weight loss, and how much can a person expect to lose? Experts shared the science behind Ozempic for weight loss, why it's not a magic solution and how much weight you can actually expect to lose. Here's everything you need to know.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic received FDA approval for treating adults with Type 2 diabetes in December 2017. Initially, the approval was for once-weekly injections of 0.5 mg or 1 mg. In March 2022, the FDA approved a higher 2 mg dose to improve blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Holly Lofton, MD, an obesity medicine specialist at NYU Langone Health, explains that Ozempic is one of two versions of semaglutide. The other is Wegovy, which received FDA approval for chronic weight management in 2022 at 2.4 mg.

In layperson's terms, Ozempic "lowers blood sugar by helping the pancreas make insulin," explains Dr. Rekha Kumar, MD, MS, the head of medical affairs at Found and a New York-based practicing endocrinologist.

Related: Thinking About Trying Ozempic? Here Are the Results You Can Expect Week by Week

How Much Weight Can Someone Taking Ozempic Expect To Lose?

Generally, a person can expect to lose 15 percent of their body weight, explains Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, DO, a board-certified family, obesity and lipid physician. So, a 200-pound person can expect to lose about 30 pounds. But the answer to this question is not one-size-fits-all.

"How much weight semaglutide can help someone lose depends on a variety of factors, including if they are a hypo or hyper responder to the medication," says Dr. Nadolsky, who also leads a team of medical advisors with Sequence, a weight loss program.

In a 2021 trial of more than 1,900 adults with obesity but without diabetes, taking a 2.4 mg dose of semaglutide plus lifestyle interventions for 68 weeks resulted in about 14.9 percent weight loss. But Dr. Nadolsky points out that Ozempic is only approved at dosages up to 2.0 mg. It's unclear how important those 0.4 mg are, but Ozempic is not FDA-approved for people without diabetes.

Related: What Happens When You Stop Taking Ozempic? 

Still, Dr. Lofton says that people can expect to lose weight using Ozempic.

"This medication works because it acts just like the native hormone that our intestines make, which is also called GLP 1," Dr. Lofton explains. "GLP 1 is a hormone that increases in concentration as we start to consume a meal and has the following actions on appetite regulation. It binds with receptors in the brain that block hunger signals."

Post-meal, Ozempic affects the digestive system.

"It slows down the emptying of your stomach into the rest of your digestive system," says Dr. Atif Iqbal, MD, FACS, FASMBS, a board-certified general surgeon and medical director of the Digestive Care Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center.

What about people who just want to lose a few pounds? Experts stress that people who do not have obesity, diabetes or both should refrain from taking semaglutide.

"Semaglutide hasn’t been tested in those without obesity—meaning people who want to lose those extra vanity pounds," Dr. Kumar says, warning that there's no research on the effectiveness or side effects of using the drug to lose small amounts of weight.

Related: Every Star Who's Admitted to Using Ozempic, Wegovy and Other Weight Loss Drugs (So Far)

It's also important to remember that Ozempic is not a miracle drug, and experts agree that Ozempic will likely help you lose weight but that regaining weight after stopping is common: Research from April of 2022 suggested that participants gained back two-thirds of the weight they had lost one year after stopping once-weekly 2.4-mg. doses of semaglutide.

"Obesity is a chronic condition, similar to hypertension and heart disease, and, like them, it can require long-term medication maintenance to manage it," Dr. Nadolsky says.

Side Effects of Ozempic for Weight Loss

Taking Ozempic for weight loss isn't without risk or side effects. "The most common side effect is nausea, which resolves for the majority of individuals as their bodies get used to the medication," says Dr. Nadolsky. "A minority of people on a GLP-1 may require extra support for nausea—in the form of diet changes or a medication like Zofran."

Other GI issues are also common. "Some people experience constipation, which can be minimized with fiber and water," Dr. Nadolsky says. "Once in a while, people get diarrhea, which also resolves relatively quickly."

Dr. Iqbal says potential side effects include:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

  • Changes in vision

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • Kidney problems (kidney failure)

  • Serious allergic reactions

  • Gallbladder problems.

Patients should always discuss risks, benefits and any side effects they're experiencing with a physician.

Next up: These Ozempic Before and After Photos Give a Real-Life Glimpse of What Life Is Really Like on Weight Loss Medication