In a new study from the University of Copenhagen, researchers confirmed that the weight-loss drug Saxenda can keep extra pounds off.
They also found that combining it with exercise brings a bigger payoff.
The finding suggests prescription weight-loss drugs work best when used along with—and not in place of—lifestyle changes.
There are several medications approved in the United States for aiding weight loss. They include Xenical (orlistat), Qsymia (phentermine-topiramate) and Contrave (naltrexone-bupropion).
Liraglutide is sold under two brand names: Saxenda, the weight loss drug, and Victoza, for type 2 diabetes. Saxenda contains a higher dose of liraglutide and works by mimicking the action of an appetite hormone called GLP-1.
Saxenda (liraglutide) is a prescription drug for spurring and maintaining weight loss when added to calorie-cutting and exercise.
In the study, the team tested195 obese adults who spent eight weeks on a low-calorie diet.
After that, they were randomly assigned to one of four groups: medication plus exercise; medication only; exercise only; or a placebo group that was given inactive “medication” and told to stick with their usual activity level.
The researchers found that over one year, the combination won, helping people shed more pounds and, specifically, body fat.
The exercise groups, in contrast, had a fairly vigorous routine. They were encouraged to attend group classes twice a week and exercise on their own twice a week, with running, cycling and brisk walking as the main activities.
All four groups received counseling on long-term diet changes.
After one year, the medication/exercise group had lost 16% of their starting weight, on average. That compared with 11% in the exercise group and 13% in the medication group.
The combo approach was also most effective at changing body composition: Those patients lost about twice as much body fat and trimmed more from their waistlines, versus those on either strategy alone. They also preserved their muscle mass.
Researchers say the study underscores the importance of “comprehensive” tactics for keeping extra weight off.
The standard of care with all obesity treatments—medications and surgery—is to use them as adjuncts to ongoing behavioral changes. Sustainable diet changes and regular exercise are key.
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The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. One author of the study is Signe Torekov.
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