Are there really natural alternatives to Ozempic?

Are there really natural alternatives to Ozempic?

Can berberine or psyllium husk work just as well as Ozempic for weight loss—at a fraction of the price and red tape? Here’s what to know.

J. Smith
December 30, 2023
5 min read
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As semaglutide weight loss drugs like Wegovy® have surged in popularity, so has a parallel interest in natural alternatives that claim to boost wellness and induce weight loss—nicknamed “nature’s Ozempic®.” Sometimes beneficial health claims for supplements are based on scientific research—however, their purported effects are often blown out of proportion or simply aren’t true.

Since over-the-counter supplements are often readily available (no prescription necessary), often at affordable prices, and the idea of ingesting a “natural ingredient” can seem pretty harmless, it makes sense why people would be curious about them. But natural supplements can range from having little or no effect (other than wasting your money) to causing serious harm. Unlike prescription medicines, which undergo rigorous testing for safety and efficacy before getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), natural supplements are not regulated or tested by the FDA before they appear on store shelves. Plus, unlike Ozempic and similar FDA-approved GLP-1 medicines, so-called “natural alternatives” don’t address the biology of weight and weight loss.

Here, we’ll dive into the worlds of semaglutide medicines and much-hyped natural alternatives to Ozempic—and sort through what works, what doesn’t, and how to safely choose the most effective medicines for you.

What makes Ozempic so effective?

Part of a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists), or GLP-1 RAs, semaglutide is a prescription medicine that’s used to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity. A drug that works as an agonist activates the same cell receptors as the body's natural hormones. These medications imitate GLP-1, a natural gut hormone, and enhance insulin release and lower blood sugar—important factors for people with type 2 diabetes. Since they also slow the speed at which food leaves the stomach to reduce appetite and cravings, semaglutide can help people with obesity lose weight.

Ozempic is the brand name for semaglutide that is FDA-approved for treating type 2 diabetes. Weight loss is an off-label use for Ozempic. The FDA has approved Wegovy, another brand name for semaglutide, as a weight management treatment for people with obesity or overweight.

If you find that a GLP-1 medication like Ozempic doesn’t help you, there are a variety of non-GLP-1 options in Found’s broad medical toolkit for your provider to choose from based on your unique MetabolicPrint™ profile. The best medication is the one that matches your biology and addresses the root causes of your weight gain and it may be a non-GLP-1 like metformin, naltrexone, or buproprion. Taking the MetabolicPrint quiz will help a Found-affiliated clinician determine which personalized prescription weight loss plan is right for you. Find detailed side effect and risk information for these and other medications by name on our weight loss medications page.

What is a natural supplement, exactly?

The term supplement can be used to mean a variety of things, including herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other substances. Vitamins and minerals are examples of supplements that can support your eating habits with necessary nutrients. The key here is supplements—according to the National Institutes of Health, they’re not intended to replace a healthy diet or prescribed medications, or treat, prevent, or cure diseases.

If you’re curious about trying a natural supplement or natural alternative to Ozempic, talk to your health care provider first and review ingredients, dosage, side effects, and potential interactions with other medications or underlying health conditions. It’s best to proceed with caution since adverse reactions are behind an estimated 23,000 emergency room visits every year in the U.S.—and after accidental ingestion by children, weight loss and energy supplements were the top cause of these supplement-related emergency visits, according to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To make a safe and effective plan for weight care and overall wellness that’s personalized to your biology, Found’s team of board-certified clinicians can help.

Are there natural alternatives to Ozempic? Which supplements work for weight loss?

Berberine supplements

The trending notion that berberine is “nature’s Ozempic” has swept through TikTok. As of December 2023, more than 16 million videos carry the tag #naturesozempic and #berberine shows up on nearly 110 million videos. TikTok influencers claim this chemical compound—found in tree turmeric, goldenseal, European barberry, and other plants—reduces body weight and regulates blood glucose levels. While there’s some evidence that berberine can have a modest glucose-lowering effect for people with type 2 diabetes, as shown in a meta-analysis of 37 studies involving 3,048 patients, more research is needed to determine whether berberine is safe and effective for weight loss purposes.

The verdict? While clinical studies have shown weight loss effects for semaglutide, the active ingredient in the FDA-approved medications Ozempic and Wegovy (86.4% of study participants given the drug lost 5% or more of their body weight), no equivalent research exists for berberine. So, no, berberine is not a natural alternative to Ozempic

Psyllium husk supplements

Dubbed by fans on social media as “the poor man’s Ozempic,” the high-fiber husk of the psyllium seed is effective in relieving constipation. Though you may hear that psyllium husk reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, the FDA concluded in 2014 that there’s very little scientific evidence to support this claim. As for weight loss claims? A meta-analysis of 22 randomized clinical trials studying the effects of psyllium supplements on weight-related measurements (body weight, BMI, and waist circumference) noted that taking the herb can lead to feelings of fullness; therefore, minor weight loss could be a side effect. However, the study concluded that taking these supplements doesn’t significantly reduce body weight. The verdict? Psyllium might keep your digestive system moving, but isn’t a natural alternative to Ozempic.

Chromium supplements

This mineral occurs in varying levels in many common foods, including brewer’s yeast, grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats. Chromium supplements are sometimes marketed for reducing insulin and blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. However, clinical research into glucose and insulin responses to chromium supplements is inconclusive. Since there aren’t medically proven benefits, the American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend supplementation with chromium.

The verdict?  When it comes to treating type 2 diabetes, Ozempic is proven to be the more effective option. Clinical research shows that Ozempic can improve blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes when paired with a healthful diet and exercise. Though chromium may play a role in insulin control for people with this disease, the evidence is inconclusive.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) supplements

Proponents of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid claim several health benefits, including that it can help adults with type 2 diabetes with weight loss and lower blood sugar levels for adults, as well as treat nerve pain and lower cholesterol. There is research to suggest that this naturally occurring compound can reduce blood sugar levels and may have a slight impact on weight loss. The verdict? Though ALA is thought to be linked to weight loss and control of blood sugar levels, more research is needed to be certain if it's a natural alternative to Ozempic for weight loss.

Cinnamon supplements

Could the popular autumn spice have superpowers? Some sellers market cinnamon supplements for metabolic benefits, saying it may promote heart health, improve blood sugar levels, and support fat metabolism. As the National Institutes of Health notes, studies looking at the effects of cinnamon on people with diabetes are difficult to evaluate and compare since cinnamon can come from a variety of tree species and it’s unclear which species or which part of the tree the participants ingested. 

The verdict? Save your cinnamon for the kitchen. Since clinical research doesn’t clearly support using cinnamon to treat any health condition, this spice is not a natural substitute for Ozempic or other similar prescription medications.

So, what are effective alternatives to Ozempic?

If you're looking for alternatives to Ozempic for off-label weight loss, consider the medications from Found’s medication toolbox, which have each gone through rigorous rounds of research and testing for safety and effectiveness and earned FDA approval. Each drug works differently in weight loss to address the root cause of a patient’s obesity. Your prescription should be personalized to work with your unique biology. Work with a clinician who specializes in obesity medicine, like those at Found, to figure out what medication might be best for you. 

Other brand-name GLP-1 medications

This type of medication can help with the biological aspects of weight loss that we don’t have much control over. Like Ozempic and Wegovy, these prescription medicines work by imitating GLP-1, one of the body’s gut hormones. These medications, paired with a healthy lifestyle, can be part of an effective personal weight loss journey. 

Other benefits of GLP-1s include reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack in adults with both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to clinical studies. Common side effects of GLP-1 medications include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and acid reflux. More serious but less common side effects include pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, and worsening of diabetic eye disease. Those with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasias should not use these drugs. Find detailed side effects and risk information for specific medications here.

Non-GLP-1 medications

GLP-1s aren’t the only prescription medications that can help with weight loss. There are non-name-brand oral drugs, which when paired with healthy lifestyle changes, can work to reduce appetite, help regulate insulin, balance blood sugar, or some combination. Found’s clinical team, using their broad toolkit of weight-loss medications, the use of MetabolicPrint,™ a proprietary metabolic health assessment to get to the root causes of your weight gain, will design a personalized treatment plan to target the biology your inability to lose weight—to help you reach your health goals.  

To discover your MetabolicPrint™ and start your journey with Found, take our quiz. Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, having served more than 200,000 members to date.

GLP-1*

GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.

Published date:
December 30, 2023
Meet the author
J. Smith
Freelance health writer

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