Saxenda for weight loss: What you need to know

Saxenda aids in weight loss for adults and children 12 years of age and older by controlling appetite and slowing digestion

Does Saxenda cause weight loss? | How does Saxenda work for weight loss? | Uses | Dosages | Safety | Efficacy | Saxenda alternatives

Weight-loss treatment options, including oral and injectable medications, have recently become a growing topic of interest. Saxenda, in particular, is a commonly prescribed treatment option for people who are obese or overweight and have weight-related medical conditions. Also known by its generic name, liraglutide, Saxenda is a prescription medication that comes as an injection administered under the skin (subcutaneous). 

Saxenda is prescribed to be used along with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. When used appropriately, it can help with long-term weight management in adults and children 12 years of age and older. The active ingredient in Saxenda works by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1 that helps control appetite and slows digestion, resulting in a feeling of fullness that can promote weight loss. 

Continue reading to learn how Saxenda may be a viable part of an individual’s weight loss journey.

RELATED: What is Saxenda: Uses, Warnings & Interactions |Saxenda Side Effects 

Does Saxenda cause weight loss?

Saxenda is designed to help promote weight loss in people with obesity or those who have excess weight and health conditions related to their weight. Although Saxenda has been shown to be effective for achieving weight loss goals, weight loss typically occurs gradually. 

For adults, it may take about eight weeks before they experience significant weight loss or at least a 5% change. In the first two to four weeks, patients may lose around 2% to 4% of their body weight. 

According to results from the SCALE Maintenance trial, a greater proportion of people using Saxenda experienced at least a 5% or 10% decrease in body weight than those who used a placebo. In addition, researchers noted that Saxenda improved blood sugar levels and had relatively mild side effects. 

Although clinical trials have shown that Saxenda can be effective and safe for chronic weight management, the results may vary. The amount of weight loss can differ from person to person depending on factors such as their starting weight, adherence to a healthy diet, and commitment to a regular exercise routine.

How does Saxenda work for weight loss?

Saxenda is a prescription medication containing the active ingredient liraglutide, which is a type of drug called a GLP-1 receptor agonist. It works by mimicking the effects of GLP-1, a hormone naturally produced in the body. GLP-1 helps regulate feelings of hunger, which in turn can lead to reduced food intake throughout the day.

In addition to its appetite-suppressing effects, Saxenda also influences the rate at which the stomach empties. By slowing down gastric emptying, the medication can help individuals feel fuller for longer periods of time, which can further reduce caloric intake. Some studies report that people may lose a significant amount of body weight, including belly fat, as a result of using Saxenda.

Who can take Saxenda for weight loss?

Saxenda is FDA-approved for weight loss for people who may be overweight or obese. Currently, the medication is approved for the following:

  • Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or higher who also have weight-related medical problems, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Adults with obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher 
  • Children aged 12-17 years with a body weight above 132 pounds (60 kg) and diagnosed with obesity

Before prescribing Saxenda, doctors or healthcare providers will consider various factors, such as the person’s BMI, overall medical history, and risk of side effects. While Saxenda is not specifically indicated for non-diabetic patients, it can be prescribed for weight loss in both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals who meet the aforementioned criteria.

Saxenda is not meant to be used without the guidance and supervision of a healthcare provider. Misusing Saxenda for weight loss may lead to potential health hazards. For example, taking Saxenda without proper instructions may lead to an increased risk of side effects, the development or worsening of medical conditions, or interactions with other medications. 

Saxenda dosages for weight loss

Saxenda is available as a pre-filled, single-person-use pen, which may help make the injection process relatively simple. The starting dose of Saxenda is 0.6 mg once daily for one week. The dose is then increased by 0.6 mg in weekly intervals until the standard dose of 3 mg per day is reached.

Saxenda is administered as a subcutaneous injection, meaning the medicine is injected into the fatty tissue just under the skin. The recommended injection sites are the upper arm, upper leg, or abdomen. Always use a new needle for each injection, and hold the injection pen at the site for several seconds after injecting for proper absorption. A healthcare provider may provide additional instructions for administering the medication. 

The typical Saxenda dosing schedule is as follows:

Saxenda dosage for weight loss

10.6 mg
21.2 mg
31.8 mg
42.4 mg
53.0 mg

Data on specific weight loss for each dose is not available. This dosing schedule helps minimize any potential side effects of the once-daily injection. A gradual increase in the dosage may also result in better weight loss outcomes, as it allows the body to adjust to the medication. In general, the 3.0 mg dose has been shown to be the most effective for weight loss when used in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity.

Is Saxenda safe?

Although Saxenda can be effective as a long-term weight-loss treatment, there are some concerns and potential side effects to be aware of. Side effects can range from mild to severe. 

Injection site reactions, such as redness or itching around the area of injection, are common. However, these side effects are usually temporary and generally go away on their own. 

Additional common side effects of Saxenda include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Indigestion
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

In addition to these common adverse reactions, there are some more serious side effects to be aware of, including:

  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma, a rare type of thyroid cancer
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Acute gallbladder disease
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), particularly when combined with other diabetes medications
  • Mental health issues, such as suicidal thoughts or worsening of pre-existing mental disorders
  • Increased heart rate
  • Kidney problems, such as kidney failure or impairment
  • Serious allergic reactions resulting in symptoms like rash, itching, and swelling of the face

Consult a healthcare provider before starting Saxenda to discuss the potential risks and determine whether the medication is right for you. They can advise you of any potential interactions with other medications you may be taking and monitor your health during treatment.

How to maximize Saxenda benefits

Saxenda can be effective for weight loss when used with certain strategies to maximize its benefits. One of the key ideas to maximizing Saxenda benefits is understanding your body mass index (BMI). This index helps determine if you’re overweight or obese and allows you and your care team to set appropriate weight loss goals. 

Engaging in regular physical activity is another key part of achieving weight loss success with Saxenda. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days. Be sure to consult your care team for detailed information on an exercise plan that may fit your needs.

Using Saxenda with a healthy, balanced diet is also important for reaching your weight loss goals. You may want to consult your healthcare provider or dietitian for personalized guidance on healthy eating habits. Your healthcare provider or dietitian may recommend a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats while avoiding overly processed and sugary foods. 

To make the most of your Saxenda treatment, you might also consider following these tips:

  • Take Saxenda at the same time every day, preferably in the morning.
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while using Saxenda, as it may increase the risk of side effects.
  • Use caution when taking oral medications with Saxenda, as Saxenda may delay their absorption. Consult your healthcare provider about potential interactions with any medications you are taking. They can advise you on whether to adjust, skip, or continue with certain medications during your Saxenda treatment.
  • Inject Saxenda as advised, making sure not to miss any doses. If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is less than 12 hours before your next dose. In that case, skip the missed dose and continue with the following day’s dose.
  • Continue incorporating healthy lifestyle changes alongside Saxenda to maximize weight loss benefits. Remember to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and report any concerns or progress throughout your treatment journey.

RELATED: The best diet for weight loss

Saxenda alternatives for weight loss

Although Saxenda is a widely used prescription medication that aids in weight loss, it may not be suitable for everyone. For some people, Saxenda may cause side effects or increase the risk of other medical problems. 

Instead, a healthcare provider may recommend other prescription drugs to help promote weight loss. These medications may differ in how they work, how much they cost, and their potential side effects. Examples of the various drug classes used to manage weight include appetite suppressants, lipase inhibitors, and serotonin receptor agonists. 

Here are some alternative FDA-approved medications that a healthcare provider may recommend.

Consult a healthcare provider when considering any weight loss medication. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information and guidance based on your situation and needs.


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