FDA Approves Weight Loss Drug for Reducing Heart Disease Risks: The New Antidote to Aging?

Wegovy is now FDA-approved to lower the risk of mortality from heart disease, but not everyone may benefit.

By Griffin Dean

Key Points: 

  • The weight-loss drug Wegovy is now FDA-approved for lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke, and mortality from heart disease. 
  • Wegovy and similar drugs and supplements, like berberine, also have anti-aging effects. 
  • Whether weight loss drugs like Wegovy can lower the risk of mortality from heart disease in non-overweight or non-obese individuals remains to be seen. 

Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk recently announced that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the company’s injectable weight-loss drug Wegovy for reducing risks of adverse heart disease-related events.  

The approval is based on a study showing that 2.4 mg of semaglutide — the generic name for Wegovy — reduced the incidence of non-fatal heart attacks, non-fatal strokes, and mortality from heart disease. The study’s 17,604 participants had a history of heart disease, were aged 45 years or older, and were overweight or obese. 

“Wegovy is now the first weight loss medication to also be approved to help prevent life-threatening cardiovascular events in adults with cardiovascular disease and either obesity or overweight,” said the FDA’s Dr. John Sharretts. “This patient population has a higher risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and stroke. Providing a treatment option that is proven to lower this cardiovascular risk is a major advance for public health.”

Anti-Aging Effects of Weight-Loss Drugs and Supplements 

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty

Semaglutide (Wegovy) belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists that experts claim can likely slow aging in humans. GLP-1 receptor agonists cause the release of a natural hormone called glucagon-like peptide (GLP), leading to feelings of satiety. 

In addition to counteracting hunger, GLP lowers blood glucose levels, which is why semaglutide (branded as Ozempic) is prescribed to patients with type 2 diabetes. In diabetics, GLP-1 receptor agonists have been shown to reduce the risk of mortality from heart disease, protect against kidney disease, and improve memory. 

Similar to semaglutide, the anti-aging compounds metformin and berberine promote the release of GLP. Like semaglutide, both metformin and berberine promote weight loss, though the effects may be less pronounced. Additionally, both metformin and berberine lower heart disease risks, similar to semaglutide.

Metformin is a type-II diabetes medication often considered an anti-aging drug due to its age-slowing effects in animal studies. Berberine is a naturally occurring molecule sometimes referred to as the poor-man’s metformin or the poor man’s Ozempic. Berberine is considered an anti-aging supplement for prolonging the lifespan of mice.  

In general, Wegovy, Ozempic, metformin, and berberine promote the secretion of GLP, leading to potential weight loss. However, whether these drugs and supplements can slow the aging process and prolong the lifespan of healthy individuals is unclear. It could be that the anti-aging benefits of these compounds, such as reduced heart disease risks, could be a result of losing weight. 

Is Weight Loss the True Key to Living Longer?

Obesity (BMI ≥30) has been shown to increase the risk of all-cause mortality by up to 108%. Therefore, semaglutide, metformin, and berberine could potentially prolong the lifespan of individuals with obesity by promoting weight loss. Like aging, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. In this way, maintaining a healthy weight can lead to living longer. 

Indeed, scientists have found that caloric restriction — consuming fewer calories without malnourishment — is the most potent intervention for extending the lifespan of various animal models, including mice. It follows that eating less food, which promotes weight loss, can potentially prolong the lifespan of humans. Eating less food may be easier on Wegovy and Ozempic because it promotes the feeling of satiety, although these drugs come with side effects.  

Whether semaglutide can reduce the risk of heart disease-related mortality in healthy individuals who are not overweight or obese remains an open question. Therefore, it is unclear whether semaglutide can extend the lifespan of those who are not already at increased risk of all-cause mortality. 


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