Binge Eating Disorder

Can Ozempic stop you from binge eating? All you need to know

February 22, 2024

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Medically reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

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Contents
Contents

Key Points

  • Some studies show that Ozempic may help treat binge eating disorder.
  • While Ozempic can curb food noise in the short term, there is no long-term data.
  • Several risks may be involved with using Ozempic for binge eating disorder.
  • Binge eating disorder is treated through therapy and advice from a Registered Dietitian. Medication can also work when necessary.

Despite binge eating disorder (BED) being one of the most common eating disorders in the United States, there is only one FDA-approved medicine to treat this condition. Now, some research seems to suggest that Ozempic, the popular anti-obesity, anti-diabetes, and anti-weight loss drug (off-label), may help treat binge eating disorder.

This article aims to provide key points to keep in mind when considering Ozempic for binge eating. Experienced Registered Dietitian Rita Faycurry, RD, also offers her insights on binge eating disorder treatment.

Hopefully, this information helps you make an informed decision.

1. Ozempic for binge eating disorder: we don’t have all the information yet

September 2023 study found semaglutide (Ozempic's active ingredient) outperformed Vyvanse and topiramate, the leading treatments for moderate to severe binge eating disorder.

Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) is authorized by the FDA to treat binge eating disorders. Topiramate, an anti-epileptic medication, is prescribed off-label for binge eating disorder.

While these results are a start, it’s important to note that:

  • The study was conducted on only 48 participants.
  • Only 19 of them received the semaglutide-only therapy.
  • All participants were in the obese weight range.

Other studies have also shown that semaglutide can help curb appetite in people with obesity. Semaglutide mimics GLP-1, a protein found naturally in the body that signals the appetite center in the brain when we’re full. It remains to be seen if this GLP-1-based therapy works for people with binge eating disorder who are not obese or do not have diabetes.

Also, since Ozempic is pretty new, there is no long-term data on how effective it is for binge eating disorders.

2. It’s possible to binge on Ozempic

A miracle drug to free you from food noise forever? This may sound like the best news. Unfortunately, there is no easy one-stop solution for binge eating.

Binge eating disorder is complex; many factors may be at play

Says Registered Dietitian Rita Faycurry, RD, “If you struggle with an eating disorder, it’s natural to yearn for relief from constant thoughts of food. Initial research suggests that Ozempic (semaglutide) could curb the urge to binge. While a drug may help curb your appetite in the short term, people have been known to binge even on Ozempic. This is because binge eating disorder involves many factors, including hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, emotional and social issues, and other mental health conditions. These underlying issues must be addressed to achieve long-term freedom from obsessive food thoughts.”

Food thoughts may return when your body gets used to the dose

Some who stop binge eating with Ozempic find that their food cravings return once their body adjusts to the dose. However, the solution is not as simple as increasing the dosage.

Without supervision from a healthcare provider, adjusting Ozempic doses by yourself may lead to other serious physical and mental health conditions.

The effects of taking too much Ozempic include:

  • Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, symptoms include heart palpitations, excessive sweating, intense hunger pangs (which may trigger a binge), and even seizures. In the long term, this low blood sugar can potentially lead to nervous system damage and cardiovascular issues.
  • Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Elevated heart rate or tachycardia, heart palpitations, and more.

Ozempic is a once-weekly drug; in some, effects may wear off in days

Ozempic is a once-weekly injection. For some people, the effects of Ozempic may wear off before the week ends, which may rev up the food noise and the risk of binge eating. One way to handle these situations is to increase the dosage, which has its share of side effects.

Note: It is strongly advised that any changes to Ozempic dosage should be performed under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

If you would like to talk to someone about how to stop binge eating, Fay can help you find a Registered Dietitian near you, covered by insurance.

3. Ozempic may delay eating disorder recovery

Ozempic works as an appetite suppressant, and people on the medication often restrict their food intake. This restriction may work against people with binge eating disorder.

Faycurry explains, “People with BED have a long history of restricting and dieting. It’s known as the binge-restrict cycle. Effective BED treatment teaches people to listen to their body's hunger and fullness cues and to eat consistently and mindfully. Ozempic may interfere with the body’s natural hunger signals, which may delay recovery.”

Experts also worry that people with atypical anorexia might get Ozempic prescriptions based on their body size instead of their mental health. Atypical anorexia is when individuals have symptoms of anorexia without the low body weight. In these cases, taking a drug like Ozempic could make their eating disorder worse because it suppresses hunger.

4. Ozempic is not approved to treat binge eating disorders

Ozempic and its main ingredient, semaglutide, are currently not approved to treat binge eating disorders. Whether the drug may or may not be in the future, time will tell.

Even with a doctor's off-label Ozempic prescription, your insurance might not cover it, making it very expensive to pay for on your own. Plus, Ozempic’s drug manufacturer has been plagued with supply issues, causing many users to skip doses or manage with different doses.

Such stressful, unpredictable situations may trigger binge-eating episodes in people who are vulnerable to them.

5. Using “generic” Ozempic is risky

Frequent Ozempic drug shortages have led to people purchasing semaglutide from unlicensed or unauthorized sources online. Unfortunately, there are many risks involved.

US FDA warning about semaglutide

The US FDA warned against buying generic semaglutide from compounding pharmacies or questionable online sources. Compounded versions can cause different side effects compared to Ozempic and Wegovy because they are not true generics but salt-based semaglutide. This salt-based semaglutide may increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

America’s Poison Centers warning about semaglutide overdose

America’s Poison Centers warned against sourcing semaglutide from potentially scrupulous online sources, as reported by CNN.

From January to December 2023, America’s Poison Centers reported over 3,000 calls related to semaglutide. In 94% of the calls, semaglutide was the only substance reported. Many of the calls were related to accidental dosing overdoses, unsupervised by a healthcare provider.

6. Ozempic may feed into diet culture, which may impact mental health

There’s no doubt that Ozempic has changed the conversation around obesity, particularly among the general public. Nowadays, there is room for a more nuanced dialog about the hormonal, chemical, and other complex elements surrounding weight.

However, experts are raising concerns about the dark side of the Ozempic phenomenon—disordered eating.

Says Faycurry RD, “With Ozempic being a part of the zeitgeist, there is a real risk of triggering eating disorders. After all, eating disorders are mental health conditions, and the increased discussions about ‘thinness,’ ‘skinny pens,’ and the use of Ozempic solely for cosmetic reasons may hurt eating disorder recovery. It may also lead to extreme restriction or misuse of the drug to be thin, leading to dangerous physical and mental health issues.”

7. Ozempic may trigger a different eating disorder

Eating disorder experts worry that Ozempic may trigger another type of eating disorder in people with BED. For instance, when an individual begins to like and become dependent on Ozempic to restrict food, they may develop another eating disorder like anorexia.


What’s the best treatment for binge eating disorder?

It can be tough, frustrating, and exhausting to constantly fight urges to binge. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill yet—no, not even Ozempic.

Binge eating disorder treatment is most effective when it involves a combination of therapy, nutritional therapy, education, and, when required, medication.

Nutritional issues from years of binge eating may include:

  • Bad gut health: A proliferation of certain gut bacteria could create intense hunger and cravings, even if you’ve just eaten.
  • Nutrient imbalance: An imbalance of micronutrients, essential vitamins, and minerals may contribute to improper hunger cues.
  • Leptin resistance: Leptin is the hormone released by fat cells that tell the brain that we are full and satisfied after a meal. In people with binge eating disorder, while leptin levels may rise, the body may not respond to signals of feeling full, a phenomenon known as leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is associated with overeating.
  • Bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Irregular eating schedules, overeating, and a dependency on foods rich in sugar, fat, and salt may lead to gastrointestinal issues that may need to be fixed as part of your binge eating treatment.

The list above barely scratches the surface. There may be other reasons why you binge.

Collaborating with a therapist and a skilled Registered Dietitian can help:

  • Identify the reasons behind your binge eating
  • Address physical, nutritional, and psychological needs
  • Offer relief from obsessive food thoughts.

Fay’s customized care helped 93% of participants improve their relationship with food.

Worried about the cost of binge eating treatment? Find a Registered Dietitian who works with your insurance.


The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Fay and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Fay only to confirm educational value and audience interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with a healthcare provider.


Sources

Fay Nutrition has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.


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Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Written by Chandana (Chandy) Balasubramanian

Chandana Balasubramanian is an experienced healthcare executive who writes on the intersection of healthcare and technology. She is the President of Global Insight Advisory Network and has a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

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Rita Faycurry, RD

Medically Reviewed by Rita Faycurry, RD

Rita Faycurry, RD is a board-certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition for chronic conditions. Her approach to health is centered around the idea that the mind and body are intimately connected and that true healing requires an evidence-based and integrative approach that addresses the root cause of disease. In her books and articles, Rita offers practical tips and insights on how to care for your body, mind, and spirit to achieve optimal health and wellness.

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