This One Thing Can Help You Drop 20 Percent of Your Body Weight

This drug achieves "what was only possible through weight-loss surgery," say the researchers.

America's weight problem has reached epidemic proportions, medical experts say. Today, over 42 percent of the population is considered obese—a figure that's increased by nearly 50 percent since 1999—and the implications for our nation's health are hard to overstate. Obesity is linked with several of America's leading causes of death, including increased rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and more. In cases of severe obesity, life expectancies drop not by an average of mere years, but by a full decade or more. It's no surprise then that researchers have been in search of a drug to help tip the scales in the fight against obesity. What is surprising is that, after all these years of research, they've finally found one that some researchers are calling a "game changer:" semaglutide. Read on to learn all about the promising weight loss aid, and for more weight loss tips, check out The One Secret Trick to Losing Weight You Haven't Tried, Study Says.

Semaglutide was already approved as a treatment for controlling high blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes, but for the purposes of the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers repurposed the drug as a long-term weight loss aid.

Their findings were striking: three-fourths of the subjects who received a 2.4 mg dose of semaglutide over a 68-week period lost at least 10 percent of their body weight, and more than one-third lost at least 20 percent of their total weight. Put another way, out of 1,961 total test subjects, those who received the drug reportedly lost an average of 14.9 percent of their weight compared with a 2.4 percent reduction in the placebo group.

"No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss," said lead author of the study, Rachel Batterham, a professor of obesity, diabetes, and endocrinology at University College London (UCL). "For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery," she added.

Semaglutide works by mimicking a hormone known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which the gut naturally releases into the bloodstream after meals. The study found that those who take the drug experience reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness, making it easier to reduce their overall calorie intake and lower their total body weight. However, 74 percent of those on semaglutide reported at least one side effect, including nausea, vomiting, or constipation, and more research will be needed to determine the drug's long-term effects.

Looking for other strategies to reach a healthy weight, side effect-free? Read on for more healthy weight loss tips, and to find out why losing weight is so hard, There's a New Reason You Can't Lose Weight, According to Science.

Spend less time on tech.

Woman on both ipad and phone

There's good reason to curb your tech addiction, beyond the obvious disadvantages of endless scrolling. According to new research presented by the American College of Cardiology, studies show that spending five or more hours on your smartphone per day increases your risk of obesity by 43 percent.

"Spending too much time in front of the smartphone facilitates sedentary behaviors [and] reduces the time of physical activity, which increases the risk of premature death, diabetes, heart disease, different types of cancer, osteoarticular discomfort, and musculoskeletal symptoms," Mirary Mantilla-Morrón, a cardiac pulmonologist and the study's lead author, said in a statement. And for the latest health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Eat more fruits and veggies.

Healthy vegetarian dinner. Woman in grey jeans and sweater eating fresh salad, avocado half, grains, beans, roasted vegetables from Buddha bowl

We all know that eating a nutritious and balanced diet is part of maintaining a healthy weight, but a recent study found that eating lots of fruits and veggies is especially important if you're genetically predisposed to obesity.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed the fruit and vegetable consumption of nearly 9,000 women and more than 5,300 men over the course of 25 years and discovered that these vitamin-rich foods were even more beneficial in those who were genetically susceptible to obesity than in those who weren't. And for more on what could be stopping you from reaching a healthy weight, check out These Surprising Things May Be Causing You to Gain Weight.

Set aside a consistent time for exercise.

Man and woman working out new year's resolution motivated

According to a study recently published in the medical journal Obesity, people who are successful in weight loss tend to have something in common: their workout schedule.

The researchers surveyed 375 adult subjects who had maintained a 30-pound weight loss for a year or more, and found that the key to their success lay in the consistency of their workout routine. Sixty eight percent of the subjects exercised at the same time every day, and nearly half (47.8 percent) worked out early in the morning, which is known to jumpstart the metabolism, enhance productivity, and boost energy levels throughout the day. And for more on exercising your way to weight loss, Here's How Far You Need to Walk Every Day to Lose Weight.

Focus on broader wellness, not just weight.

Senior Mexican Woman working out and stretching with weights in nature

While it's easy to focus on the weight itself—or worse, to get caught in the negative cycles of body shame and poor body image—experts say it's important to focus more broadly on overall wellness than on weight loss.

As James Hill, PhD, chair of the nutrition sciences department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, explained in a keynote address, "I started out way more focused on physical health: fitness level, risk of diabetes, and so on. In recent years, what's become clear to me is that one of the key parts of this is the whole mental or psychological component."

Hill now says that instead of using the number on the scale as your main measure of success, you'll achieve a far more rewarding outcome by looking at the ways your physical health, mental health, happiness, sense of purpose, and goals are intertwined. Maintaining a healthy weight may be part of that, but you may want to avoid making it your singular focus. And to help you find your new wellness routine, check out The Single Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health Right Now.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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