Study: Drugs Like Ozempic Can Impact Taste Sensitivity in Obese Women 

Health News

By Naveen Athrappully 
Contributing Writer 

The use of drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy by women suffering from obesity could end up altering their sensitivity to sweet taste, according to a recent study. 

The weight loss drugs belong to a class of medications known as GLP-1 and their active ingredient is semaglutide. 

In the study, researchers looked at the impact of GLP-1 receptor agonist semaglutide on taste perception, said the Endocrine Society, which published a summary of the study. 

Researchers randomly assigned 30 women with an average BMI of 36.4 to take either 1mg of semaglutide or a placebo for 16 weeks. A BMI value of over 35 is considered to be obese. 

During the testing period, researchers measured the participants’ taste sensitivity. They used MRI to measure brain responses while a sweet solution was dripped on their tongues. This was done before and after the women had their meals. 

Individuals receiving semaglutide were found to have experienced changes in taste perception, taste bud gene expression, and brain activity in response to the sweet taste stimuli. 

“People with obesity often perceive tastes less ‘intensely’ and they have an inherently elevated desire for sweet and energy-dense food,” said Mojca Jensterle Sever from the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana, Slovenia. 

“Our findings build upon preliminary animal studies showing that central administration of GLP-1RA medications impacts taste aversion to sweetness.” The study was presented during the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting on June 1 in Boston. 

Kate Hanna, director of communications at Novo Nordisk, which manufactures Ozempic and Wegovy, said in a prepared statement that the study has not yet been peer-reviewed or published. 

Dysgeusia — unpleasant, abnormal, or altered taste sensation — is already listed in the product monograph for Ozempic and Wegovy, Hanna noted. A product monograph is a scientific document of a drug product. 

“The study was conducted in a small sample size of 30 women with obesity and only the sweet taste stimuli were assessed. Moreover, the study was conducted in women living with obesity and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) limiting its generalizability to the general population.” 

Semaglutide has been “extensively” examined in several clinical development programs and has more than 12 million patient-years of exposure, she said. 

The study also revealed how the brain responded to the GLP-1 receptor in the angular gyrus, a part of the brain that influences number and language processing as well as reasoning and memory, 

“The general public will be interested to learn of the potential novel effects of this popular therapeutic class widely used for the treatment of diabetes and obesity,” Sever said. 

“Clinicians will likely correlate the findings with reports from their patients on changes in desire for certain foods, which go beyond broad changes in appetite and satiety that help them lose weight.” 

The researcher acknowledged that the study had some limitations. For instance, it only assessed a specific taste in a study environment, which may not reflect everyday experience. 

Altered Taste and Other Impacts 

Medical experts have been pointing to taste issues felt by their patients who have been taking Ozempic. 

In a March 5 X post, obesity and lipid specialist, physician Dr. Spencer Nadolsky said that many of his patients who were on GLP-1 medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy reported “their taste preferences change and even taste in general.” 

“One person just said they can’t stand the taste of soda or coffee anymore,” he wrote. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states in a document that dysgeusia is one of the adverse reactions associated with Ozempic use. More than 0.4% of users have reported the problem. 

Another FDA document reports that 1.7% of patients who used Wegovy in clinical trials suffered from dysgeusia. 

In addition to dysgeusia, other complications may arise. The official Ozempic website warns that the drug can cause “serious side effects,” including inflammation in the pancreas, low blood sugar, changes in vision, serious allergic reactions, kidney issues, and gallbladder problems. 

It advised users to inform their health care provider in case they develop a lump or swelling in their neck, have trouble swallowing, or suffer shortness of breath, as these may be symptoms of thyroid cancer. 

The FDA is also investigating Ozempic and other similar weight loss drugs for side effects such as suicidal ideation. 

From 2018 through January, the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System has received 108 reports of suicidal ideation among Ozempic users. This included nine suicide attempts and six suicides. 

Novo Nordisk has dismissed any association between Ozempic and suicidal tendencies. 

The makers of GLP-1 medications are also facing lawsuits. In February, a judicial panel centralized several lawsuits filed against weight loss drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy. 

Plaintiffs alleged they suffered gastrointestinal injuries from using the drugs, including gastroparesis — a condition in which a person’s stomach does not empty properly. 

The lawsuits claim that the company failed to adequately warn users and doctors about the dangerous potential gastrointestinal side effects of the drug. 

Individuals who suffer from gastroparesis experience dehydration from repeated vomiting, difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels, and malnutrition due to poor nutrient absorption — consequences that can be life-threatening. 

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