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SARAH DI LORENZO: What Ozempic is really doing to our bodies in the long term

Headshot of Sarah Di Lorenzo
Sarah Di Lorenzo
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Nutritionist Sarah Di Lorenzo says the longer-term effects of using Ozempic can be hazardous on the gut.
Nutritionist Sarah Di Lorenzo says the longer-term effects of using Ozempic can be hazardous on the gut. Credit: The Nightly

Ozempic has been the topic of conversation in the weight-loss industry since around May 2022 when Kim Kardashian famously wore the Marilyn Monroe dress she needed to rapidly lose weight to fit into.

After this everyone started to notice rapid weight loss around Hollywood, there was the endless celebrity denial, but then there were also those like Oprah, Sharon Osbourne, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler openly sharing their journey with Ozempic.

As a clinical nutritionist, I have been watching this diet drug obsession make its way to Australia. There is no doubt many famous Australian personalities are taking it, but there is still a lot of denial.

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And now it is not just a diet drug for celebrities. I am seeing it being taken by so many who just don’t need it, from my sister telling me about her hairdresser to a friend of mine who is a nurse.

Put simply, it is everywhere now and I am beyond alarmed. While on the one hand people are losing weight and therefore lowering their risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, in many cases this is only temporary.

I always say medication has its place — but for people who need it.

Ozempic is a pharmaceutical medication approved in Australia by the TGA in 2019 for adults with type 2 diabetes. It is a weekly injection helping lower blood sugar and helps the pancreas to make more insulin, I support this completely for type 2 diabetics. Medications should only be prescribed for those needing them.

So what happens to the human body when taking Ozempic?

Well other than increased production of insulin, digestion slows in the stomach. Food normally sits there for one to two hours, but with Ozempic it can be days while the food is still sitting there, in rare cases this can result in stomach paralysis (gastroparesis), leading to nausea and vomiting. Ozempic increases GLP1, the hormone that tells us when we are full.

When it comes to gut health, the problems I hear are endless. I had a patient who came to me desperate to come off Ozempic but she in fear of regaining all the weight so wanted to work with me. She had a bowel movement only once every two weeks over the eight months she was on Ozempic, I recently noticed intestinal blockage is a new addition to the list of side effects, while on the flip side diarrhoea is another common side effect.

Other possible side effects are loss of lean, healthy muscle mass; pancreatitis; rapid heart beat, hypoglycaemia; nausea; gas; abdominal pain; dizziness; allergic reaction; blurred vision; burping; gallstones; diabetic retinopathy; and fatigue. Plus, aesthetically, lots of loose skin; “Ozempic face” with a hollowed appearance; more wrinkles and accelerated ageing; and, in most cases, weight regain.

Think about this, our amazing human body can make its own way of increasing weight loss outside of diet by improving our gut health. We have bacteria called akkermansia muciniphila which, when in good populations, keep us at a healthy weight. To improve your akkermansia, eat more fibre (fruit, grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds) and take regular exercise.

Weight loss is hard for many and while a quick-fix drug seems like a great idea, it is short sighted — there are no quick fixes.

The key to success is looking at a healthy way of getting to your goal weight with a program such as the 10:10 plan teaching you a lifelong change in your eating habits and showing you how to keep the kilos off for life.

Sarah Di Lorenzo is a nutritionist and author

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