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5 surprising facts about GLP-1s

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Last updated Mar 11, 2024

GLP-1s (glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists) have taken the weight off the shoulders of the weight management world. They’re offering impressive results in helping individuals shed pounds and improve metabolic health. 

But their impact extends far beyond the bathroom scale. Recent research is uncovering exciting new benefits of GLP-1s, suggesting they could play a significant role in various health areas:

1. They can improve your heart health

If you suffer from obesity and pre-existing heart disease, semaglutide (the key ingredient in Wegovy, for example) can be a game-changer. Studies show it significantly reduces the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular-related deaths compared to a placebo. This can potentially save lives and offer hope for improved cardiovascular health.

We know that maintaining a healthy weight is vital for heart health, directly impacting risk factors like hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. After all, excess weight strains the heart and increases the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases. But GLP-1s appear to improve heart health above and beyond weight loss by enhancing health of the heart muscle. Whoa! They can actually improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, contributing to a longer, healthier life.

2. They can reverse fatty liver disease.

Hepatic steatosis, which used to be called fatty liver disease but is now known as MASLD (metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease … what a mouthful!), is due to the accumulation of excess fat in the liver cells. This buildup can lead to inflammation and liver damage. MASLD is the most common form and is often associated with … you guessed it … obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. If left untreated, it can progress to more severe stages, including steatohepatitis and cirrhosis, posing potential risks to liver function and overall health.

This type of liver disease is a growing concern, but semaglutide offers promising news. GLP-1s have shown promising results in reducing liver fat. This dual-action capability of addressing weight loss and liver fat reduction underscores the versatility of GLP-1s in treating complex metabolic conditions.

3. They can protect your cognitive future. 

Neurodegenerative diseases – think Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s – are conditions where nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system progressively deteriorate and die, leading to a decline in cognitive or motor functions. 

Ongoing research indicates that GLP-1s might protect cognitive health and help reduce the likelihood of developing these diseases. They can actually help safeguard your cognitive function.

These findings pave the way for exciting future interventions for promoting brain health. They may even end up revolutionizing approaches to addressing and treating cognitive disorders. This opens up exciting possibilities for individuals susceptible to or affected by neurodegenerative diseases.

4. They boost your natural defenses.

Bet you didn’t know that GLP-1 RAs may be able to strengthen your immune system. Studies suggest they can enhance the activity of natural killer cells. You know, those immune “warriors” that fight infections and diseases and potentially play a role in cancer prevention.

A strong immune system is crucial for defending the body. It acts as a protective shield, identifying and neutralizing harmful invaders, and promoting overall health and well-being.

Some research found an association between GLP-1s and the reduction of chronic inflammation among patients with COVID-19.

This gives promise for potential applications of GLP-1s in various immune-related disorders extending beyond their primary role in weight management.

5. They can be used in conjunction with other weight loss medications for improved outcomes.

GLP-1s can be combined with other weight loss therapies, like Contrave. Contrave combines two drugs—naltrexone and bupropion – and aids in weight loss by specifically addressing regions of the brain responsible for regulating hunger and managing cravings. This synergistic approach can lead to even better weight loss outcomes. It gives healthcare professionals more tools to personalize treatment plans and maximize results for patients.

And we have no idea what’s next…

This glimpse into the amazing world of GLP-1s shows their increasing potential beyond weight management. As research continues, more applications in various health areas will emerge. They may not all be positive. We are certainly still learning.

But based on what we’ve seen so far, these weight loss medications seem to go beyond weight loss. They may end up being potential game-changers in overall health and well-being. 

Note: GLP-1s, like Ozempic, are not FDA approved to treat obesity or for weight loss.


Linda Anegawa, MD is Noom’s Chief Medical Officer where she brings decades of experience in academic primary care, bariatrics, advisory board service, and leadership in digital health. She is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.