Is There Such A Thing As ‘Budget Ozempic’ And ‘Nature’s Ozempic’ That Can Help You Lose Weight?

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Whenever a new expensive drug promising to address a common health concern enters the market, discussions about “budget” or “natural” alternatives inevitably emerge, appearing on social media platforms or product labels.

This trend has been particularly pronounced with the introduction of the widely popular weight loss and diabetes medication known as semaglutide, marketed under the brand names Ozempic, Wegovy, and Rybelsus.

Of course, there are a multitude of inexpensive weight loss supplements that preceded semaglutide.

Christopher McGowan, MD, of True You Weight Loss in Cary, North Carolina, and a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine explains, “Numerous herbal and natural supplements claim to assist with weight loss, including caffeine, green tea extract, magnesium, garcinia cambogia, chitosan, conjugated linoleic acid, guar gum, and even laxatives.”

Notably, just like other board certifications, the diplomate of ABOM credential means a doctor has completed continuing education in weight management medicine, which is a field considered long neglected in medical school training.

The surge in popularity of semaglutide drugs has led to claims on social media suggesting that certain supplements serve as alternatives or substitutes for Ozempic.

Among these, two supplements have garnered attention: berberine, sometimes touted as “nature’s Ozempic,” and psyllium husk, referred to as the “poor man’s Ozempic.”

However, the critical questions remain: Do these purported Ozempic alternatives genuinely assist in weight loss? And regardless of their efficacy, are they safe for consumption?

Reasons For Considering Budget Ozempics 

It’s not difficult to understand the appeal of Ozempic substitutes for many individuals who might consider using semaglutide. Generally, supplements are more accessible and considerably less costly than prescription Ozempic, which, without insurance coverage, can exceed $900 per month for weekly injections, as reported by Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of Ozempic.

Jonathan D. Parker, DO, an Alabama-based obesity medicine specialist and a board member of the American Board of Obesity Medicine says, “Our current system limits access to comprehensive obesity care, including limited, access to FDA-approved medications that do show significant benefits and safety for the treatment of obesity. This drives many over-the-counter alternatives as patients seek treatment.”

Additionally, dietary supplements may offer a “natural” appeal preferred by many due to concerns about potential side effects associated with semaglutide. These concerns range from common issues like indigestion or nausea to more long-term considerations such as malnutrition resulting from reduced food intake or a potentially elevated risk of thyroid cancer.

Is Berberine Truly Nature’s Ozempic? 

Berberine is a supplement derived from various shrubs like barberry, Oregon grape, and tree turmeric. Typically available in capsule form, it can also be found in powder form. Berberine activates an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which aids in regulating metabolism and reducing blood glucose levels, earning it the moniker “nature’s Ozempic.”

The allure of berberine largely stems from its affordability, with a month’s supply costing between $20 and $30.

Regarding its effect on weight loss, several studies suggest that berberine may offer modest benefits. For instance, a systemic review conducted in 2021 concluded that berberine has the potential to decrease obesity and enhance insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

However, Dr. Parker says that the effects of berberine have only been examined in small, short-term studies, and “average weight loss is approximately 2-3 percent of body weight.”

While some studies suggest that berberine may modestly contribute to weight loss, its efficacy doesn’t compare to that of semaglutide, which can facilitate weight loss of up to 15 percent.

In addition, the evidence of berberine’s benefits is limited. “Unfortunately, most studies that evaluated [berberine’s] outcomes are small, nonrandomized, and prone to bias. In other words, the currently available evidence is insufficient to support most health claims attributed to berberine,” says Dr. McGowan.

Still, Dr. Parker explains that berberine is a relatively low-risk supplement to try. “In my opinion, berberine is generally safe and well tolerated, with GI side effects being the most common complaint.”

Why Psyllium Husk Is Called the Poor Man’s Ozempic

Another commonly used alternative to Ozempic is psyllium husk, which operates without complex metabolic processes. It’s essentially a fiber supplement derived from the seeds of plants in the Pantago genus. Psyllium husk, recognizable from digestive aids like Metamucil, is often utilized for occasional constipation relief.

The significance of fiber for managing both type 2 diabetes and obesity is well established. For example, a small-scale study conducted in 2016 demonstrated that the soluble fiber found in psyllium could enhance glycemic response and contribute to weight management in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of increased fiber intake in aiding weight loss. A study in 2019 revealed that individuals who consumed higher amounts of fiber not only lost more weight but also adhered more closely to dietary plans.

For most individuals, increasing fiber intake is generally beneficial. However, there are potential drawbacks to psyllium husk consumption, including side effects such as bloating or diarrhea. To mitigate these risks, it’s advisable to take psyllium husk with at least 8 ounces of water and maintain adequate hydration throughout the day.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to schedule psyllium husk intake at least two or three hours before or after taking other medications, as it may interfere with their efficacy, as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.

In The End

In conclusion, Dr. Parker emphasizes that obesity is a chronic condition that is most effectively managed through collaboration with your healthcare team. Working together, you can determine which, if any, supplements should be incorporated into your treatment plan.