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The Inside Scoop on Weight Loss Drugs: Safety and Side Effects

The Inside Scoop on Weight Loss Drugs: Safety and Side Effects - Bariatric Fusion

As more individuals seek effective weight loss solutions, the popularity of medications in the bariatric and medical weight loss field rises. With promises of faster weight loss and improved health, choosing the right medication becomes daunting due to varying effectiveness, safety, and side effects.

In this blog, we explore the research on weight loss drugs, discussing how they work, their benefits, and safety factors. We cover topics like their effects on cardiovascular and mental health, long-term outcomes, and common side effects.

What Are Weight Loss Medications?

Weight loss medications help individuals, including those in bariatric or medical weight loss programs, reach their goals by curbing appetite, limiting nutrient absorption, or boosting calorie burning.

Currently, several anti-obesity medications are Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for obesity treatment, including orlistat, phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia), naltrexone-bupropion, liraglutide (Saxenda), semaglutide (Wegovy), Imcivree (setmelanotide), and tirzepatide (Zepbound).1,2,3,4

Healthcare providers often recommend them for individuals struggling to lose weight through diet and exercise alone, particularly those with obesity or associated conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Navigating Weight Loss Medications: Who Can Take Them?

Weight loss medications are often advised for individuals who have tried diet and exercise without success in losing weight, similar to the criteria for those eligible for bariatric surgery. They may be suitable if:5

  1. You have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which shows obesity, or a BMI of 27 or higher with health issues related to obesity, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea.

  2. You've tried to lose weight by changing your lifestyle but haven't seen the results you hoped for.

  3. You're willing to keep making healthy changes to your lifestyle, like eating well and being more active.

  4. You don't have any outstanding reasons or health problems that would make taking weight loss medications risky; they might be safe for you to try.

While these medications can aid weight management, they're not a quick fix for weight loss and should complement a healthy lifestyle. Always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure they're suitable and safe for your specific situation.

Do You Still Need To Work Out and Eat Healthy When Taking Weight Loss Drugs?

Weight loss drugs aren't a replacement for exercise and balanced nutrition. They assist by reducing hunger, calorie intake, or increasing metabolism.5

For optimal results, it's important to combine these medications with regular physical activity and a nutritious diet.6 Healthy habits are essential for sustained weight management and overall well-being. So, view weight loss drugs as something that complements a healthy lifestyle, not a standalone solution.

Prioritize Protein

During weight loss, focusing on protein from lean foods and high-quality supplements helps preserve muscle while shedding fat.7* This advice aligns with recommendations for bariatric patients to prioritize protein intake.

Weight Loss Medications: Safety Considerations

Ensuring the safety of weight loss medications is vital. Recent studies and clinical trials have provided valuable information on several key aspects:

Cardiovascular Risks

While there's been concern about weight loss medications affecting cardiovascular health, most, if not all, of those causing issues have been withdrawn from the market.8

However, it's crucial to assess cardiovascular risks, particularly in those with pre-existing heart conditions.

Mental Health Risks

Another critical consideration is the effect on mental health. Certain weight loss medications might influence mood or worsen existing mental health conditions.9

Healthcare providers must understand these potential risks when prescribing such medications.

Possible Long-Term Effects

Continuously assessing the safety of weight loss drugs is crucial as we strive to understand their long-term effects.

Selecting anti-obesity medications for extended weight management should be done thoughtfully, considering individual health concerns and preferences.10

Side Effects of Weight Loss Medications

Weight loss medications may lead to a range of side effects, from mild to severe, including:5

  • Digestive problems, like diarrhea, gas, and constipation
  • Muscle loss
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate

While some side effects are manageable, severe reactions underscore the need for close monitoring and personalized treatment plans. It's worth noting that many of these side effects are common after bariatric surgery, so consulting with your healthcare provider is advised.


As bariatric and medical weight loss patients explore weight management options, it's vital to approach medication use thoughtfully.

While weight loss drugs offer promises of improved health and faster results, their effectiveness and safety levels vary. They can complement healthy habits like exercise and balanced nutrition, but they aren't standalone solutions.

Prioritizing safety, ongoing research is essential to assess the effectiveness and safety of weight loss medications for each individual. With these considerations, you can make informed decisions and optimize your weight loss journey while maintaining overall health.


1. Idrees Z et al. Cureus. 2022;14(9):e29262.
2. FDA. 2021. New release accessed from
3. FDA. 2022. New release accessed from
4. FDA. 2023. News release accessed from
5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK). 2023. Accessed from
6. Dalle Grave R. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2024;17:227–230.
7. Longland TM et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):738-746.
8. Bramante CT et al. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019;10:883.
9. Arillotta D et al. Brain Sci. 2023;13(11):1503.
10. Tak YJ et al. Curr Obes Rep. 2021;10(1):14–30.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your bariatric surgeon or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions in regard to a medical condition. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.

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