Science

The surprising mental health and brain benefits of weight-loss drugs

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Kathy Schwartz was 10 years free from alcohol, cigarettes and opiates but every day it was painful to control her cravings. “They were always in the background,” she says. In June last year, however, this noise fell silent.

Prescribed the weight-loss drug semaglutide, she not only lost nearly 30 kilograms over 10 months, but also her desire to reach for a drink or take some pills. “I do not crave, which I didn’t think would be a side effect,” says Schwartz. Remarkably, the depression and anxiety that would previously come over her in waves also calmed down.

Schwartz isn’t alone in this experience. New research is revealing the surprising brain and mental health benefits of semaglutide drugs such as Ozempic and Wegovy, and other related diabetes and weight-loss drugs that mimic a gut hormone released after eating.

It is early days, but there are hints that these drugs could be repurposed to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and even certain eating disorders – as well as neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. What’s more, it seems that these effects aren’t just mediated via weight loss, but through direct action on the brain.

The story of drugs like Ozempic starts back in the 1970s and 1980s when researchers discovered that a gut hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) could stimulate insulin production when injected into rodents in the…


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