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The Science Behind Tirzepatide

Tirzepatide was approved by the FDA as a treatment for obesity in November 2023, after its previous approval as a type 2 diabetes treatment in May 2022. In a very short time, this revolutionary medication has rocked the weight loss world, thanks to the enormous success it has shown in helping people lose weight.

Tirzepatide, sold under the brand names Mounjaro and Zepbound, as well as being available in generic form, follows in the footsteps of semaglutide (Ozempic) in providing a radically new approach to weight loss. It widens the ability of medical professionals to help people lose weight, since it offers a medical approach without the side effects and risks that accompanied previous weight loss medications.

Understanding the way tirzepatide works, the science behind the medication, and the research studies that have demonstrated this effectiveness can help you decide whether tirzepatide is the right choice for you on your weight loss journey.

What is Tirzepatide?

Tirzepatide is a “first-in-class” medication, according to the FDA. This means it offers a new and unique mechanism to deal with the medical problem it addresses — an indication of how truly revolutionary this medication is. It’s one of a newly created class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists.

A synthetic peptide made up of a chain of 39 amino acids, tirzepatide is derived from a hormone produced naturally in the pituitary gland. This hormone helps regulate your metabolism and appetite, so it’s not surprising that it’s successful in prompting weight loss. After significant testing and research, the FDA approved it for weight loss in those with a BMI of 30 or higher. It’s administered via once-a-week injections and can be self-injected at home.

How Does Tirzepatide Work?

Tirzepatide mimics the effects of not one but two natural hormones. The first is the already-mentioned GLP-1. This is the same hormone targeted by similar drugs such as semaglutide. Tirzepatide stands out because it also mimics the effect of gastric inhibitory polypeptide, or GIP (also known as glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide).

When tirzepatide sends these analog hormones into your body, it prompts the pancreas to release just a little bit of extra insulin when your blood sugar goes up. That extra insulin helps move glucose into your cells, making it available as energy throughout your body. This helps regulate your blood sugar without causing it to become too low. At the same time, the medication reduces the amount of the hormone glucagon that your liver releases, also regulating the amount of glucose in your bloodstream.

In addition, tirzepatide slows the rate at which your stomach empties. It also slows down the movement of food through your gut, helping to prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking after you eat. That means you feel full faster, keep feeling full for longer, and consequently eat less — and your body has more time to digest your food, so your metabolism gets a bit of a boost.

Tirzepatide also works within your hypothalamus to reduce hunger, increase the feeling of being satisfied, and decrease food cravings and “food noise.” It does this through interactions with the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R), which helps reduce appetite and increase your energy burn. In addition, it tamps down your levels of ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone.” As a result, you don’t feel hungry and you naturally want to stop eating more quickly than you used to.

On top of that, tirzepatide has shown benefits to the cardiovascular system. It reduces the risks to your heart associated with high cholesterol.

Scientific Studies on Tirzepatide

Scientific studies detailing the results gained from using tirzepatide started to reach the public in 2022, though the researchers had at that point been investigating the medication for some time. The initial randomized controlled studies, which lasted 72 weeks and involved 2,519 people, showed that 9 out of 10 people lost significant weight while taking tirzepatide. The people studied were all obese, but none of them had diabetes, and they lost an average of 52 pounds, or 21% of their body weight, when taking the highest dose (15 mg) of tirzepatide.

Multiple studies were also done on people with type 2 diabetes. These clinical trials, which involved 7,769 participants over a period of 40 to 104 weeks, showed that up to 50% of those studies actually went into remission for their diabetes when they took tirzepatide. In other words, they were no longer diabetic.

Based on the remarkable results from multiple studies, the FDA fast-tracked the approval of tirzepatide as a medical treatment for weight loss, separate from the approval it had already given the medication to treat type 2 diabetes.

Woman losing weight with Tirzepatide

The Weight Loss Benefits of Tirzepatide

With all this medical research backing this revolutionary new medication, what can you expect from tirzepatide on your own weight loss journey? Keep reading to understand just what the experience of taking tirzepatide entails.

Appetite Suppression

Tirzepatide’s interactions with neural receptors, as detailed above, result in a suppression of your appetite. It mutes and regulates the signals that your brain sends you to let you know you’re hungry — and that includes the types of hunger that you experience as a side effect of being bored or anxious or angry. Many people taking tirzepatide comment that they just don’t think about food any more, and some even have to remind themselves to eat.

As a result, your urge to snack goes away, as does your urge to keep eating when your stomach is full. This has an obvious result when you start to add up calories in vs. calories out. If you’re not hungry, you’re going to maintain the calorie deficit that’s necessary for weight loss. You’ll burn more calories than you ingest naturally, without having to think about it. You’ll be able to make smart choices about what you eat without any battle with cravings.

Improved Fat Breakdown and Burning

Remember that MC4R receptor? Those receptors affect fatty tissue, and when tirzepatide activates them, it causes the receptors to break down fat cells through a process known as lipolysis. This process turns fat into energy, which is good news for those looking to shed (and burn) extra fat.

Because of this enhanced mobilization of fat, you’re likely to experience faster and more efficient weight loss while on tirzepatide. Many people see fat loss in the areas of the body where fat seems to lodge stubbornly during more traditional efforts to lose weight.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Even if you’re taking tirzepatide just to lose weight, and not to treat type 2 diabetes, the effect that the medication has on your insulin sensitivity matters. When on tirzepatide, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, the naturally produced hormone that helps manage your blood sugar.

Because your body is more sensitive to insulin, it’s better able to use insulin to keep your blood sugar under control. That means you’re far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes or to be diagnosed as pre-diabetic —or, if you’re already dealing with type 2 diabetes, it makes you less likely to require supplemental insulin.

Boosted Metabolism

Have you ever found yourself looking at people who seem able to eat anything and not gain weight, wondering why you didn’t inherit their strong metabolism? Tirzepatide can make a difference here. It increases your basal metabolic rate. That means your body burns calories faster and more efficiently.

As a result, your overall expenditure of energy increases — which in turn helps facilitate weight loss. When you add an exercise routine and a healthy diet to the mix, you could see real changes in your metabolism.

Weight Loss Management

Most weight loss programs involve caloric restriction, which can be very difficult for many people to sustain over the long term. All too often, someone attempting to lose weight can do everything right — eat healthy, get exercise, monitor the calories-in-calories-out equation — and still see themselves plateau indefinitely, unable to get to their goal weight.

That seesawing and frustration ends with tirzepatide. Because it helps suppress appetite, you simply don’t want to eat as much, so you curtail your caloric intake naturally. You feel full even when eating a low-calorie diet. Your efforts to lose weight become sustainable over the long haul because your body has regained a natural sense of control over what and how much you’re eating.

Who Can Take Tirzepatide?

If you have a BMI of 30 or higher, you’re eligible to take tirzepatide for weight loss, according to the FDA. That’s true even if you have no diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. You’re also eligible if you have a BMI of 27 if you also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or another medical condition directly related to being overweight.

If you have a history (or a family history) of medullary thyroid cancer, you should not take tirzepatide. Those who have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MENS-2) should also avoid the medication.

Is Tirzepatide Safe? (And What Are Its Side Effects?)

The FDA has deemed tirzepatide safe and effective when used as directed for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Most people are able to take it without significant side effects.

Because tirzepatide is designed to mimic naturally occurring hormones affecting the gastrointestinal tract, it’s not surprising that its primary side effects affect the digestive system. Less than 20% of people experience any side effects at all. The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, indigestion, and stomach pain.

All these side effects tend to improve with time as your body gets used to the medication. In addition, any side effects are more pronounced at higher dosages of tirzepatide. To ameliorate any side effects, dosages start out very low, with patients taking injections of 2.5 mg per week for the first month. Each month, the dosage is increased by 2.5 mg until, at the 6 month mark, you’re taking 15 mg per week. Because of this gradual increase in dosage over many months, it’s possible to pause the dosage rises if you find the side effects uncomfortable, sticking at a medium level as long as needed.

Much rarer are uncommon serious side effects that include thyroid cancer, pancreas or gallbladder inflammation, allergic reaction, intestinal blockage, low blood sugar, increased heart rate, kidney injury, and suicidal ideation. In addition, people with type 2 diabetes can experience rare cases of diabetic retinopathy.

What Can Tirzepatide Do for You?

Tirzepatide is a true game-changer in the field of weight loss. Because it offers the dual action of both the GLP-1 and GIP hormones, it is proving itself to be especially effective at promoting weight loss. As a safe and effective treatment for obesity, it opens the medical weight loss door to people who have tried all sorts of other approaches without much lasting success. We are happy to offer this remarkable new medication. We’re able to provide tirzepatide at an affordable price, along with all the medical guidance and monitoring that goes along with this long-term treatment. Contact us today to turn the corner to a new life on your weight loss journey.

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