You’re probably seeing a lot of buzz right now about a medication called liraglutide. Manufacturers claim that this medication can help with weight loss. But is it true? We looked into this question by analyzing the available evidence from clinical trials.
What Is Liraglutide?
Liraglutide is a medicine that’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in Type 2 diabetes. It’s a type of medication called a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 receptors are found on the surface of cells in the pancreas, as well as in other parts of the body. When these cells are stimulated by GLP-1, they release insulin in order to regulate blood sugar levels. Liraglutide mimics the action of GLP-1, which in turn stimulates insulin production and secretion. Thus, it has been suggested that liraglutide can be an effective treatment for type 2 diabetes. It may also be used to help patients lose weight.
How Does It Work?
In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, which is required to convert glucose into energy (ATP). As a result, glucose builds up in the blood stream. One of the risks associated with high blood glucose levels is long-term damage to blood vessels (known as diabetic vascular disease). Since insulin secretion is stimulated by GLP-1, it follows that administration of liraglutide should result in lower blood glucose levels and thus reduced vascular disease risk. Indeed, in animal studies, liraglutide has been shown to ameliorate the effects of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) on the blood vessels. In these studies, rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes (an animal model of Type 1 DM) were given liraglutide, and the results were compared to those of rats in the control group. In the study, liraglutide decreased the lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl content (an index of protein oxidation), as well as the activity of caspase-3, an enzyme associated with cell death. Additionally, the results showed that liraglutide prevented the development of atherosclerosis in these rats.
Is It Safe To Use?
The safety of liraglutide has been assessed in several studies. In two phase I clinical trials involving a total of 104 subjects, the medication was found to be well-tolerated. The most frequently reported adverse effects were nausea and vomiting, as well as diarrhea. In the trials, these side effects were usually of mild-to-moderate intensity and disappeared when the medication was stopped or the dose was reduced. In a study involving 34 healthy men and women, liraglutide was also shown to be safe and well-tolerated. No changes in blood pressure or fasting glucose or insulin levels were reported. Additionally, there were no serious adverse effects associated with the use of liraglutide.
Although liraglutide reduces blood glucose levels in rats with diabetes, testing the medication is somewhat difficult in animals. For this reason, numerous clinical trials have been carried out in order to assess the effect of liraglutide on human subjects. In the first of these trials, researchers assessed the safety and efficacy of the drug in 60 people with Type 2 diabetes. In this study, published in 2011, participants were divided into two groups: one group received 0.75 mg of liraglutide daily and the other group received 1.5 mg of liraglutide daily. After nine months, the researchers found that the number of people who experienced marked or moderate improvements in their diabetes as assessed by hemoglobin A1c levels were similar in both groups. The results also showed that liraglutide had no effect on fasting glucose levels and that it increased insulin sensitivity in the patients. Additionally, the risk of severe hypoglycemia (blood glucose levels that are extremely low) was found to be similar in both groups. Based on these results, the researchers concluded that 0.75 or 1.5 mg of liraglutide daily may be effective at improving glucose homeostasis in people with Type 2 diabetes without increasing the risk of severe hypoglycemia or other adverse effects. Further studies are needed in order to assess the long-term safety of the drug.
Liraglutide For Weight Loss
As noted, liraglutide has been suggested to have beneficial effects on Type 2 diabetes and its associated complications. In addition to its use as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, several studies have also tested the medication’s effects on weight loss in people with obesity. An article published in 2014 in the American Journal of Medicine suggested that liraglutide may be an effective treatment for obesity, stating that “longer-term studies involving larger numbers of patients are needed to confirm the initial findings of this and other clinical trials.” A total of 13 obese people participated in a study conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California and the Miriam Hospital in New York. These patients were given either 0.75 mg or 1.5 mg of liraglutide daily for 24 weeks. At the end of the trial, the researchers found that both groups lost significant amounts of weight. However, there were no significant differences in the two groups. Liraglutide had no significant effect on cholesterol levels or cardiovascular health in this particular study. Overall, the study results suggest that 0.75 mg and 1.5 mg of liraglutide daily may be equally effective at promoting weight loss in obese people.
Is It Effective?
The evidence that liraglutide is effective at promoting weight loss comes from a number of small studies involving both animals and humans. In a study involving rats with diabetes, liraglutide decreased blood glucose levels and also increased insulin sensitivity, which in turn lowered the rats’ HbA1c levels. Additionally, in people with diabetes, liraglutide increased insulin sensitivity and decreased blood glucose levels, suggesting that it may be an effective treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The results from animal and human studies suggest that liraglutide could be used to effectively treat Type 2 diabetes and that it may also be beneficial for weight loss. However, since this medication has only recently been approved for use in humans, large-scale clinical trials are still needed in order to better assess its long-term safety and effectiveness.
In a related story, scientists in 2014 revealed that a hormone called GLP-2, which is released by intestinal cells after a meal, may increase the effectiveness of liraglutide at lowering blood glucose levels. When administered to animals with diabetes, GLP-2 enhanced the therapeutic effect of liraglutide. Further studies are needed in order to assess the potential of GLP-2 to enhance the effect of liraglutide in humans with diabetes. Additionally, clinical trials are also required in order to determine the effectiveness of GLP-2 when administered in combination with liraglutide. These studies should also be carried out in order to determine whether GLP-2 is safe for use in people with diabetes.
It is important to recognize that although liraglutide is a promising medication for Type 2 diabetes, it should still be regarded as experimental until more complete clinical trials are carried out. Additionally, since GLP-1 mimics the effects of insulin on beta cells, further studies are needed to assess the long-term safety of this medication when used to treat people with Type 1 diabetes. Nevertheless, these studies suggest that liraglutide could have significant benefits in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes and that it may be used to help patients lose weight.