Some Foods Boost Levels of an Ozempic-like Hormone Resulting In Less Snacking, More Satisfaction
Ozempic and Wegovy have become popular among celebrities, social media influencers, and other people who use them. Ozempic treats adults with type 2 diabetes, while Wegovy is a medicine for people with obesity or those who have health problems related to being overweight.
What thrust the two prescription drugs into the spotlight were testimonials from people who saw dramatic weight loss while taking the medications. The worldwide popularity of the medications has created a global supply shortage. Novo Nordisk, which manufactures both medications, said on its website that the demand continues to be greater than the company’s ability to supply them.
The active ingredient in both Ozempic and Wegovy is semaglutide, a medication that causes people to feel full during a meal and stop eating. Some people report that semaglutide quiets down “food noise,” which are frequent thoughts about eating between meals.
Semaglutide mimics the action of Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that the body produces naturally when eating food. GLP-1 is effective in curbing your appetite by making you feel full during and between meals. The hormone also slows down the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, resulting in feeling full longer. This process can result in weight loss.
For people wanting to lose weight, scientists say you can increase your body’s production of GLP-1 by changing your diet and eating more fiber-rich foods.
“Whenever my family finds out that I’m studying obesity or diabetes, they say, ‘Oh, what’s the wonder drug? What do I need to take? What do I need to do?” Frank Duca, an assistant professor in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arizona, told NPR. “And I say, ‘Eat more fiber.’”
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps manage weight, keeps the gut healthy, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble:
1. Soluble Fiber. This fiber, also known as fermentable fiber, dissolves in water and slows down digestion. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include:
• Brussels sprouts
2. Insoluble fiber. This fiber does not dissolve in water and typically remains intact as it passes through the digestive system. Some of the most common sources of insoluble fiber include:
• Brown rice
• Dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach
• Green beans
• Whole wheat products (such as wheat bran)
• Whole grains
The body cannot digest fiber because it doesn’t have the enzymes required to break it down. So, undigested food moves through the small intestine mostly intact, and reaches the large intestine or the colon, approximately four to 10 hours later after eating a meal.
The large intestine, however, has bacteria that can break down certain dietary fibers into smaller molecules. And, these smaller molecules stimulate the release of GLP-1, along with PYY (peptide YY), another important hormone that helps you feel full after eating. According to Duca, the release of GLP-1 and PYY can increase the length of time between meals. The hormones can also influence how much you eat at the next meal.
“This is what’s called a second meal effect,” Edward Deehan, a nutritional microbiologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explained to NPR. “If you eat a lot of fiber at one meal, by the time it’s in your colon, it’s around the time of your next meal. So, you may have improved satiety or a feeling of fullness.”
Non-Fiber and Low-Fiber Foods Affect GLP-1 Levels
While eating a meal can trigger the production of GLP-1, consuming foods with little or no fiber can cause the GLP-1 levels in the blood to plunge, resulting in little to no weight loss.
Foods with or without fiber follow the same digestive process, but GLP-1 levels end up differently, according to scientists. For example, eating a breakfast with fried eggs and two slices of white bread will not boost your GLP-1 levels. Fried eggs have no dietary fiber while a slice of white bread has less than one gram of fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As the digested food moves into the small intestine, it activates cells in the intestines that release hormones, Sinju Sundaresan, an assistant professor at Midwestern University, explained to NPR. About 20 of these hormones, including GLP-1, are satiation hormones, which decrease appetite and make you feel full.
“They tell your body to start absorption, and to suppress your hunger signals,” Sundaresan said. Then, you slow down and eventually stop eating because you feel satisfied.
At this point, GLP-1 gears up and stimulates the release of insulin, and slows down the rate at which the bread and eggs leave your stomach and enter the small intestine. In this way, you don’t use up fuel from the food all at once, Gary Schwartz, a professor of medicine, neuroscience, and psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told NPR.
But, GLP-1 acts extremely fast, and once the hormone hits the blood, it begins to be degraded, according to Darleen Sandoval, an integrated physiologist at the University of Colorado, who has studied GLP-1 for more than a decade. “By the time GLP-1 gets to the heart and the rest of the circulation, there’s very little of it left,” she told NPR.
So, within a couple of hours of eating the no-fiber breakfast, you’re hungry again because the GLP-1 levels in your blood have dropped.
What Fiber Works Best?
Scientists say soluble fiber works best in decreasing appetite because bacteria in the gut can break down this type of soluble fiber. Duca and his peers are trying to determine which fermentable fibers are the best at suppressing appetite and promoting weight loss.
“So the agricultural community in the U.S. could prioritize the growing of grains with these fibers,” Duca said.
In one preliminary study involving mice, Duca and his colleagues found that beta-glucan, a fiber found in barley, oats, and rye, caused weight loss in obese animals. Studies involving people have also found that beta-glucan fiber may improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, and increase satiation between meals, NPR reported. In addition to beta-glucan, other soluble fibers include:
• Dextrin in wheat
• Oligosaccharide in beans, peas, and lentils
• Pectin in apples, pears, and green bananas.
Duca says to watch out for processed foods that make claims about having added fiber.
“Companies are hearing that they need to increase the fiber in their foods, but then a lot of times, they’re adding fiber that isn’t super beneficial for you,” he says. “It’s the type of fiber that just passes right through you, without triggering the release of any hormones.”