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Popular weight-loss drugs Wegovy, Ozempic may lower desire for sweets

By Dennis Thompson, HealthDay News
Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News
Photo by Adobe Stock/HealthDay News

Ozempic and Wegovy appear to improve people's sensitivity to tastes, potentially lowering their desire for sweets, a new study suggests.

The active ingredient in the weight-loss medications, semaglutide, also appears to affect the way that the tongue and brain respond to sweet tastes, researchers reported Saturday at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in Boston.

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"People with obesity often perceive tastes less 'intensely,' and they have an inherently elevated desire for sweet and energy-dense food," said researcher Mojca Jensterle Sever, an endocrinologist with the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

For the study, researchers randomly assigned obese women to receive either semaglutide injections or a placebo.

For four months, researchers measured the participants' taste sensitivity using strips containing different concentrations of tastes.

They also used MRI scans to measure brain responses to a sweet solution dripping onto their tongues, both before and after the women ate a standard meal.

Researchers also took tissue samples to evaluate genetic activity in the participants' tongues.

Women receiving semaglutide experienced changes in their taste perception, in the ways their taste bud genes expressed themselves and the way their brain responded to sweets.

The changes track with those seen in animal studies, Jensterle Sever said.

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"Clinicians will likely correlate the findings with reports from their patients on changes in desire for certain foods, which go beyond broad changes in appetite and satiety that help them lose weight," Jensterle Sever said in a meeting news release.

However, Jensterle Sever added that more research is needed, given that the study occurred in a lab setting and taste perception can vary significantly from person to person.

Future studies will clarify whether semaglutide's effectiveness in treating obesity is a "matter of taste," Jensterle Sever concluded.

Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about semaglutide.

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