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Ozempic vs. Mounjaro: Understanding the Risks and Benefits for Weight Loss

ozempic vs. mounjaro
ozempic vs. mounjaro

Ozempic and Mounjaro are FDA-approved medications that may help regulate and control blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. Both consisting of weekly injections, these medications have skyrocketed in popularity due to their ability to aid in weight loss

However, while drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro may help people lose weight, neither of these medications is yet approved for weight loss alone. They are often prescribed off-label for this reason. This is in contrast to drugs like Wegovy, which is a form of semaglutide approved for weight loss.

Here we’ll take a closer look at what they do, how they’re used, and how Ozempic and Mounjaro compare when stacked head-to-head.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a brand name for the medication semaglutide, which along with Wegovy belongs to a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1, or GLP-1 receptor agonists. Produced by Novo Nordisk, Ozempic is primarily used for managing type 2 diabetes and reducing cardiovascular risk. 

ozempic semaglutide

Clinical trials have shown that individuals using Ozempic often experience substantial weight reduction as a secondary benefit. The weight loss effect is particularly noteworthy, as it has led to increased interest in using Ozempic as a weight loss drug, but it has yet to be approved by the FDA for this purpose.

How Ozempic Works

Ozempic (semaglutide) is a once-a-week injection used for glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes. This medication activates the GLP-1 receptors in the body, which play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels and producing proper insulin after eating.

In addition to this, GLP-1 contributes to the appetite-regulating centers in the brain leading to increased feelings of fullness and decreased appetite, which may help promote better weight management.

Ozempic is administered by injection for subcutaneous use at a weekly 0.25 milligram dose for beginners. It is not recommended to exceed two milligrams weekly.

Uses of Ozempic

ozempic uses and dose
  • Managing Type 2 Diabetes: Ozempic is often prescribed to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes and is often combined with a physician-recommended diet and exercise regimen.
  • Reducing Cardiovascular Risk: Ozempic has also been approved to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events (such as heart attack or stroke) in adults with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Weight Loss: Although not FDA-approved, Ozempic has demonstrated significant results in weight reduction.

Potential Side Effects of Ozempic

Since the active ingredient in Ozempic helps aid weight loss by altering certain digestive functions, gastrointestinal side effects may be common. Some common side effects of Ozempic may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

What is Mounjaro?

Mounjaro is a brand name for the medication tirzepatide, and it belongs to a class of drugs known as dual glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. Produced by Eli Lilly, Mounjaro is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat type 2 diabetes. 

mounjaro tirzepatide

However, current clinical trials suggest that Mounjaro can also significantly aid in weight loss, especially for people classified as obese who have type 2 diabetes. In one 2022 study, about two-thirds of participants taking 10, or 15 milligrams of Mounjaro per week saw reduced body weight by at least 20 percent over the study period of 72 weeks, or roughly a year and a half.

How Mounjaro Works

Mounjaro (terzepatide) is a once-a-week injection that helps regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Unlike other drugs that treat type 2 diabetes, Mounjaro activates two hormones–GLP-1 and GIP–that help regulate blood glucose.

Importantly, people with type 2 diabetes may experience heart-related risks or certain cardiovascular conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure. Although some studies suggest that Mounjaro may lower blood pressure, it’s not currently approved for treating any heart conditions.

Mounjaro is administered by injection at a 2.5 milligram dose for beginners and may gradually increase to five milligrams after the first month. The maximum dosage of Mounjaro is 15 milligrams weekly.

Uses of Mounjaro

mounjaro uses and dose
  • Managing Type 2 Diabetes: Mounjaro is approved by the FDA to improve glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes and is often recommended along with an adequate diet and exercise routine.
  • Weight Loss: Although not currently FDA-approved, Mounjaro has shown significant weight loss results as a secondary benefit, especially in individuals classified as obese.

Potential Side Effects of Mounjaro

Similar to Ozempic, the majority of reported side effects that people experience while taking Mounjaro are related to digestion. However, some reports suggest that higher doses of Mounjaro may lead to an increased risk of side effects.

Some of the most common side effects of Mounjaro may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

Even though the side effects of Ozempic and Mounjaro are similar, it's important to note that everyone reacts to medications differently, so individual experiences on each drug may vary. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance if you take either of these diabetes drugs and experience side effects.

It’s important to note that more serious side effects for both Ozempic and Mounjaro may be present for some people. Learn more about the potential risks of Ozempic here. For Mounjaro, the list below may include some but not all possible serious side effects of the drug:

  • Severe digestive problems, which may lead to acute kidney injury
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Risk of thyroid cancer

Foods to Avoid on Ozempic or Mounjaro

When taking Ozempic, Mounjaro, or any other medication for type 2 diabetes, physicians often recommend sticking to a balanced diet and exercise routine. To maintain a balanced and healthy diet while taking any of these medications, here are some foods that you may want to minimize or avoid:

foods to limit on ozempic mounjaro
  • High-Fat Foods: Excessively high-fat meals, especially those high in saturated and trans fats, may lead to worsened GI side effects while taking these drugs.
  • Excessive Alcohol: Alcohol may significantly affect blood sugar levels and may interact with these medications.
  • Grapefruit: Some medications, including Ozempic and Mounjaro, may negatively interact with grapefruit and grapefruit juice.
  • Excessive Caffeine: While moderate caffeine consumption is generally safe, excessive caffeine intake may worsen certain side effects associated with GLP-1 drugs.

Comparing Ozempic and Mounjaro for Weight Loss

Current research suggests that both Ozempic and Mounjaro produce weight loss as a secondary benefit for those with obesity, and they also help people sustain that weight loss for as long as they're taking the medication. However, weight regain is common after stopping the medications. When comparing them head-to-head, which one of these drugs shows more promising results when it comes to weight reduction?

ozempic vs mounjaro weight loss

Even though both medications have demonstrated significant weight loss results in numerous clinical trials, Mounjaro seems to have a leg up when it comes to weight reduction alone. This is especially evident when it is taken at the highest available dosage.

Ozempic (semaglutide) studies indicate that participants lost an average of seven percent of their body weight in one year while taking a one milligram dosage, which was also combined with diet and exercise changes. When taking the highest available dosage of Ozempic (two milligrams), clinical trials show that participants were able to lose an average of up to 15 percent of their body weight.

On the other hand, in a clinical study on Mounjaro (tirzepatide), over half of the participants were able to lose over 20 percent of their body weight while taking the highest available dose (15 milligrams) for a year and a half.

While current research indicates that Mounjaro may be slightly more effective when it comes to weight reduction, it's important to remember that everyone reacts to medication differently and individual experiences can widely vary. Weight loss on both of these medications may not be sustainable after going off of them, so lifestyle interventions may be needed to maintain results.

Why Sustainable Lifestyle Changes Are Important for Weight Loss

Medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro have certain benefits and may work well for people already struggling with type 2 diabetes and obesity, but many experts argue that they shouldn't necessarily be your first choices when it comes to sustainable weight loss.

Relying on pharmaceutical interventions without addressing the underlying lifestyle factors may lead to rebound weight gain when taken off the medication. Hence, a sustainable approach to weight loss focuses on factors like:

weight loss tips
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Monitoring calorie intake
  • Engaging in physical activity
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Evaluating and managing sources of chronic high stress
  • Having an accountability partner

Nutrisense goes beyond traditional weight loss programs by providing members with personalized insights into their metabolic health and nutritional balance through continuous glucose monitoring and a handy mobile app.

With blood glucose data, meal nutrition tracking, and support from an expert nutritionist to guide you on your weight loss journey, Nutrisense can help you gain a more nuanced understanding of how your lifestyle choices may be impacting your weight management goals and overall health.

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Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewed by: Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.