Paired with Diet and Exercise, Diabetes Drug May Help People with Obesity Lose Weight

Obesity is widespread in the United States, with nearly 42% of American adults living with the condition. That’s up from 30.5% in the year 2000. Obesity can lead to an increased risk of several chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease. There may be more options for people looking to shed this extra weight, though, as a new study has found that a diabetes drug may help.

Research recently presented at the 82nd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association investigated the safety and efficacy of the diabetes drug tirzepatide as a treatment for obesity. The findings, also published in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that patients who received weekly doses of the drug shed substantial weight.


Dr. Ania Jastreboff, director of Weight Management and Obesity Prevention at the Yale Stress Center, says, “Obesity should be treated like any other chronic disease—with effective and safe approaches that target underlying disease mechanisms, and these results underscore that tirzepatide may be doing just that.”

To test tirzepatide, the team enrolled 2,539 people who were obese or who were overweight and had at least one condition related to their weight, but none of them had diabetes. They split them into four groups: three which had weekly doses of the drug, either 5, 10, or 15 mg; and one placebo group. The study period lasted for 72 weeks, with participants also receiving regular lifestyle counseling to help them stick with low-calorie meals. They exercised at least 150 minutes each week, as well.


At week 72, those who had been in the 5 mg group had lost an average of 15% of their bodyweight, with the 10 mg group losing an average of 19.5% and the 15 mg group dropping about 21% of their weight. The figure was 3% for those on the placebo. That translated to 35 pounds, 49 pounds, 52 pounds, and just over five pounds, respectively.

Additionally, 85% of the 5 mg group, 89% of the 10 mg group, and 91% of the 15 mg group lost at least 5% of their bodyweight. For the placebo group, that was 35%. Among those taking the largest dose, 57% of participants shed at least 20% of their body weight, compared with 3% of the placebo group.

The team hopes these findings give patients with obesity more treatment options in the future.

Dr. Jastreboff says, “These results are an important step forward in potentially expanding effective therapeutic options for people with obesity. Notably, about 9 out of 10 individuals with obesity lost weight while taking tirzepatide.”


The drug recently received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to be used alongside diet and exercise to help those with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. Manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company says the drug’s efficacy against obesity is being tested in other current trials, as well.

There were some side effects in this trial, though, including nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Such impacts led 4.3% to 7.1% of the participants in the tirzepatide groups to discontinue treatment.

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