Is Ozempic Insulin?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
January 31, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Ozempic is a medication that helps people with type 2 diabetes keep their blood sugar in a healthy range. It works differently than insulin.

  • Ozempic stimulates the pancreas to release insulin, slows digestion, and decreases how much glucagon the liver secretes.

  • Taking Ozempic while following a healthy diet and increasing activity may help people with type 2 diabetes lose weight.

Ozempic is a brand-name medication for people with type two diabetes to use alongside exercise and healthy eating to improve their blood sugar levels. Ozempic works differently than insulin and may be taken together in some cases. Although not FDA-approved as a weight loss medication, people with diabetes who take Ozempic may lose some weight. 

Read on to learn more about the differences between insulin and Ozempic. This article discusses how Ozempic helps with weight loss and more. 

Is Ozempic Insulin?

Although Ozempic and insulin are similar in that they are both injectable medications that help with blood sugar management, they are very different. Insulin products are the same or very similar to the actual insulin hormone your pancreas produces. The purpose of insulin is to tell cells to absorb sugar from your blood. This decreases your blood sugar.

Manage weight loss online

See if you’re a good fit for K Health’s online medical weight loss program.

Start now

Ozempic vs. Insulin

People with diabetes, depending on the type, either do not produce enough insulin or their body does not react appropriately to insulin. This can cause their blood sugar to run high, negatively affecting the body. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can take insulin. Those with type 2 diabetes can take insulin or other medications to treat diabetes.

Ozempic is a GLP-1 agonist medication that differs from insulin in several ways. Ozempic mimics the GLP-1, a hormone the intestines produce. GLP-1 agonists have several actions, including:

  • Stimulating the pancreas to secrete insulin
  • Reducing how much glucagon the liver releases
  • Slowing down food leaving the stomach.

These actions help lower blood sugar. Ozempic is similar to insulin in that it is injectable. However, unlike insulin, Ozempic is a once-a-week injection. It’s also different in that only people with type 2 diabetes can take Ozempic. People with type 1 diabetes should not take Ozempic, but they will benefit from taking insulin. 

How Does Ozempic Work for Weight Loss?

Ozempic helps people lose weight by slowing the rate food leaves the stomach during digestion which helps you feel full for longer. These actions may help you eat less and lose weight. 

The FDA has not approved Ozempic for weight loss, but it’s currently being reviewed for this use. However, you may lose weight if you take Ozempic for your type 2 diabetes while following a doctor-recommended diet and exercise program.

Other Uses of Ozempic

Ozempic is useful in several other ways as well. If you have type 2 diabetes and heart disease, taking Ozempic can reduce your risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or death. Managing your blood sugar with Ozempic can also lower your A1C. 

Is Insulin Used for Weight Loss?

While insulin may help you manage your blood sugar level, it’s not known to help with weight loss. However, increasing your daily physical activity, following a diabetic diet, and normalizing your blood sugars may help you maintain an average weight. If you want to lose weight, talk with your doctor about weight loss strategies that will be best for you. 

Side Effects of Ozempic

Ozempic may cause side effects. Let your doctor know if your symptoms are severe or don’t go away within a few days. The following adverse effects are common:

Serious side effects require emergency medical treatment, including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash and/or itching
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Vision changes
  • Pain in the upper stomach
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Ongoing abdominal pain with or without vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting

Ozempic has a black box warning regarding the possible risk of thyroid cancer. Black box warnings alert patients and doctors about the possible dangerous effects of the drug. During clinical trials, Ozempic increased the risk of thyroid tumors in animals.

It’s not known if Ozempic has this same effect on humans. If you are taking Ozempic, notify your doctor immediately if you have a mass or lump in your throat. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, breathing, or a hoarse voice. 

Is Ozempic Effective for Weight Loss?

Ozempic may be effective for helping you lose weight if you take it as directed by your provider while also exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. 

During clinical trials, adults taking Ozempic lost up to 14 pounds. However, it is important to note that when starting Ozempic, you must work up to the target dose slowly. The target dose is where you may see the most weight loss.

During trials, participants increased their dose every four weeks until they reached the goal of 2.4 mg once weekly. Also, know the medication does not work for everyone. Some people cannot tolerate the side effects or the full dose. 

Manage weight loss online

See if you’re a good fit for K Health’s online medical weight loss program.

Start now

Ozempic Weight Loss Alternatives

Several other medications work similarly to Ozempic and may also help with weight loss. Participants of clinical trials who used a GLP-1 agonist while increasing physical activity and following a limited-calorie diet had more significant weight loss than participants who did not.

Currently, there are four GLP-1 agonists approved in the United States. Key differences include their dosing, administration, tolerability, and patient satisfaction. 

Trulicity is a once-weekly injection approved to treat adults with type 2 diabetes. During clinical trials, participants who took Trulicity lost up to 10 pounds. This medication is not currently FDA-approved for weight loss.

Victoza is a once-daily injection that helps adults and children 10 years and older with type 2 diabetes. It may also decrease the risk of major cardiovascular events. During clinical trials, adult participants lost an average of 6.2 pounds. However, some participants gained weight.  

Wegovy has FDA approval as a weight loss medication. People with a BMI of 30 or greater or at least one comorbidity related to weight can take Wegovy for weight loss. This medication works along with following a diet and regular exercise.

Saxenda is a once-daily injection for adults with a BMI of 30 or greater, adults with weight-related medical problems, and children aged 12–17 years with a body weight above 132 pounds and obesity.

Byetta is a twice-daily injection typically taken before morning and evening meals. It helps people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. As with other GLP-1 agonists, patients need to increase physical activity and reduce calorie intake when taking Byetta.

Before choosing which GLP-1 agonist is right for you, consider your options and discuss them with your medical provider. 

Online Medical Weight Loss

Now you can manage weight loss online using K Health.

Get care in three easy steps:

  1. Tell us about yourself.
  2. Chat with a clinician.
  3. Manage your condition with medication refills, lab tests, and more.

Start now.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

Close button

See if you qualify for online prescription weight loss medication.

Start now