A Closer Look at How Appetite Suppressants Work

Mar 02, 2024
A Closer Look at How Appetite Suppressants Work
It’s tough to shed pounds when you’re hungry all the time. Here’s how appetite suppressants can curb your cravings, keep you on track, and help you reach your health goals.

There’s no way around it — if you want to lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories. If only you could control that impossible-to-ignore hunger in your stomach.

Understanding the science behind appetite regulation is the first step toward gaining the upper hand on your diet, habits, and weight management. Spoiler alert — it involves an intricate network of hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your eating behaviors.

Once you know how your appetite works, you’ll see how appetite suppressants can help you reach your weight management and health goals. 

Dr. Asif Aziz at Prestige Primary Care. P.A., in Dallas, Texas, includes appetite suppressants in our medically managed weight loss program. Here, he explains how they work.

The science of appetite

Primarily, two hormones control your appetite: ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” and leptin, the “satiety hormone.” Together, they dictate your feelings of hunger and fullness.

When your stomach is empty, your body releases ghrelin, telling your brain it’s time to eat. On the other hand, when you’ve eaten enough, the fat cells in your body release leptin, which tells the brain that you’re full and should stop eating.

Anything that knocks your hormones out of balance can lead to overeating and weight gain. For example, stress, lack of sleep, and junk food can disrupt your system. The hormones insulin and cortisol also play a role in your appetite, as do neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA. 

Appetite suppressants step in to restore your body’s chemical balance.

A closer look at appetite suppressants

Appetite suppressants are drugs or supplements that reduce hunger and increase your feelings of fullness. They achieve this by increasing leptin hormones, reducing ghrelin hormones, or both. They also adjust your levels of other chemicals.

For example, some antidepressants influence the serotonin system in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, anxiety, and appetite. By increasing serotonin levels, these medications help you feel fuller longer, so you eat less and lose more weight.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved six appetite suppressants:

  1. Wegovy® (semaglutide)
  2. Saxenda® (liraglutide)
  3. Xenical®, Alli® (orlistat)
  4. Contrave® (bupropion-naltrexone)
  5. Qsymia® (phentermine-topiramate)
  6. Imcivree® (setmelanotide)

They each work on different aspects of your chemical makeup, so Dr. Aziz starts by identifying your particular imbalances. 

Success rates, safety, and side effects

On average, our patients lose about 5% of their body weight while using appetite suppressants, but some who take semaglutide or liraglutide lose up to 11%. 

While appetite suppressants can get you to your weight loss goal, they have a few potential side effects. Some may cause dry mouth, constipation, and increased heart rate; others may lead to diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea. 

Not all appetite suppressants suit everyone, so Dr. Aziz evaluates you carefully before prescribing. If you have certain medical conditions, like high blood pressure, glaucoma, or mood disorders, or take other medications, like anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs, you may not be a good candidate for appetite suppressants.

Appetite suppressants: Should you, or shouldn’t you?

We consider appetite suppressants a valuable tool in your weight loss journey, especially if you struggle with constant hunger or overeating. 

However, appetite suppressants aren’t a magic bullet or a cure-all. For sustainable weight loss, combining these medications with a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and healthy lifestyle changes is crucial.  

Appetite suppressants can be a valuable part of your comprehensive weight loss program at Prestige Primary Care, P.A., especially when combined with Dr. Aziz’s expert nutritional counseling and personalized attention.

If you’re considering using an appetite suppressant, book an appointment online or call Prestige Primary Care, P.A., today and talk with Dr. Aziz about your weight loss goals.