GLP-1 Unveiled: The Science Behind the New 'Supplement for Weight Loss and Blood Sugar Control'

Written by: Natalie Louise Burrows

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Healf Journal

Another acronym for us to discuss and this one you may have heard connected with the controversial topic of weight loss injections. GLP-1.


Thankfully there is not a new weight loss injection hitting the market (we just have the others to contend with). But supplements are making their way onto shelves and online stores promoting the natural version of those injections, such as Pendulums GLP-1 Probiotic.


Is this better than the injection? How does it work? Will there be side effects? Who should take it?


Natalie Louise Burrows, Nutritional Therapist and Clinic Director of Integral Wellness , takes a look at whether GLP-1 supplements could bring the same results in a more natural, holistic health way.

What is GLP-1?

Before diving into the nuances of supplements and injections, let's first understand what GLP-1 is. GLP-1, or Glucagon-like Peptide-1, is a hormone naturally produced in our intestines and released when we eat food. It plays a pivotal role in regulating blood sugar levels by doing four key things:


1) Enhances insulin secretion when needed.

Insulin is the hormone required to get sugar from your bloodstream into the cells of your body where it can be used for energy.


2) Inhibits glucagon (aka store sugar) secretion from the liver.
This helps to keep blood sugars down and may even improve liver damage in cases of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) now known more accurately as Metabolic-Associated Fatty Liver Disease.


3) Slows the release of food from the stomach.

This increases the feeling of ‘fuller for longer’ to prevent snacking and overeating at meals.


4) Aids satiety signalling to your brain when you’re full.

Loss of signalling can be due to leptin insufficiency or resistance.


It’s due to these key functions that it is a key player in weight management. And there is no surprise that when a natural hormone in the body helps with weight management, a medication and supplement will likely follow. (No beef, that’s just business).

Why might you need to ‘take’ GLP-1?

The GLP-1 RA medications used for type 2 diabetes, like Ozempic, are Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonists. These were created because the mechanism of action, as explained above, was clinically proven to help reduce someone's blood sugars and aid with weight loss. This in turn improved the management of blood sugars and reduced their risk of the complications that occur with high blood sugars; blindness, limb amputation, neuropathy (loss of nerve function), nephropathy (loss of kidney function), heart attack, stroke, dementia, and sexual dysfunction.


Although I advocate diet and lifestyle changes for type 2 diabetes, as it is preventable and reversible, when someone is not managing their blood sugars, medications are paramount to prevent such life-altering comorbidities and complications.


From a supplement perspective, GLP-1 production naturally decreases with age, like many things in the body including stomach acid and collagen production. This can increase the interest in supplementing, especially if weight loss is a goal.

However, other considerations need to be taken, as just like type 2 diabetes medication, it can only do so much if diet and lifestyle do not remain key factors that encourage results.

What do the supplement ingredients do?

GLP-1 supplements aim to support the natural production and release of GLP-1 hormone. Pendulum has created a probiotic blend based on pre-clinical research that demonstrates how certain strains of bacteria can help to increase the production of GLP-1 in gastrointestinal cells.


The process is impressive - but then when isn’t the body impressive in its natural ability to keep us alive in this crazy modern world?!


The GLP-1 Probiotic supplement includes Akkermansia muciniphila , Clostridium butyricum, Bifidobacterium infantis. These bacteria have been shown to aid the secretion of p9 as well as metabolise fibre that we eat (which is why getting your 30g a day is important) into beneficial short-chain fatty acids; butyrate, acetate and propionate - which can lead to increased production and stimulation of GLP-1.


These three strains of bacteria also benefit the digestive system by stimulating mucin production and rejuvenation which supports the integrity and health of the gut lining.


The evidence linking a healthy gut and a balanced microbiome population has been known for some time so even if this isn’t a miracle supplement (which it never is), there is a good chance these supplements can help manage cravings, reduce appetite, and ultimately support weight loss efforts alongside diet and lifestyle changes.


Supplements offer a less invasive option for those looking to explore the benefits of GLP-1 for weight management without committing to medical procedures.

How is a supplement different from weight loss injections?

GLP-1 RA (Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Receptor Agonist) weight loss injections mimic the hormone's effects more directly by delivering GLP-1 synthetically and directly to the body.


So rather than encouraging the natural production and secretion of GLP-1, via a capsulated supplement, it bypasses the body’s natural ability and delivers a synthetic form of GLP-1, via an injection, to do the same job as the natural hormone would.


It's important to note that these injections, although they have undergone clinical trials, are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They require careful consideration and guidance from healthcare professionals to ensure they align with your health goals and medical history. As it is a synthetic medication, it also comes with a list of side effects including, but not limited to:


  • Nausea & Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea and/or constipation

  • Low blood sugar

  • Headaches & Dizziness

  • Infections

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loss of muscle mass (not all weight loss is good)

  • Mild tachycardia (increased heart rate)

  • Allergic reactions

  • Pancreatitis

  • Acute kidney injury

  • Worsening of diabetes-related retinopathy

  • Rebound weight gain (when stopping the medication and not making diet and lifestyle changes to sustain weight loss)


Although this doesn’t sound pleasant, the supplement GLP-1 option is not recognised as an appropriate application to replace prescribed medicine. Therefore, someone taking a GLP-1 RA injection for the likes of type 2 diabetes, should not make the switch from a prescription to a supplement without discussing this approach with their doctor.


It is recommended to seek additional guidance from a Nutritional Therapist for diet, lifestyle and supplement recommendations appropriate for your personal needs and goals. It’s a minefield out there after all and whether you take a supplement or a medication, you’ll be swimming upstream and making it hard to achieve long-term results if you don’t change your diet and lifestyle. 


Other natural approaches to GLP-1 on the market

Berberine has been titled ‘Nature’s Ozempic’ but is that accurate?


The truth is no. Although Berberine has been shown to help aid weight loss, it is quite different from Ozempic when we look at its mechanism of action.


As mentioned, Ozempic is a GLP-1 receptor agonist which mimics the GLP-1 hormone released in response to eating. GLP-1 interacts with the part of the brain that reduces appetite and signals a feeling of fullness. It also stimulates the production of insulin to help manage blood glucose levels.


Berberine has also been shown to promote insulin and reduce glucose levels but it does so via the activation of an enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (or AMPK for short). This enzyme helps regulate metabolism, activate fatty acid metabolism (taking energy from fat stores) and stimulate autophagy (a beneficial process where your body breaks down and reuses old cells so your cells can operate more efficiently).


The problem I have with the marketing and overuse of Berberine… it’s a powerful antimicrobial with the ability to assist in the removal of infections in the gut. However, like antibiotics, it is non-specific in its targeting. Using it unnecessarily or for too long could lead to the loss of beneficial gut microbiota.


Considering how important a healthy gut bacteria population is for weight loss, this could cause the opposite problem than the one you desired when starting Berberine. This is why I recommend working with a Nutritional Therapist rather than self-prescribing supplements that may not be suitable.


Yuzu Juice. Heard of it? Well if not that may be because it’s hard to find but it’s trending for its benefits for weight loss. All the way from Japan, this fruit is tangy and tart, more acidic than lemons and said to taste like a combination of lemon, orange, and grapefruit.


Research on Yuzu Juice specifically is lacking but lemon juice has been studied and revealed benefits for blood glucose when taken before a meal. Unlike Ozempic, which slows gastric emptying to keep you fuller for longer, lemon juice has been shown to increase the speed of stomach emptying.


Will I be trying it or recommending it any time soon? Probably not. The high acidity makes me concerned for teeth and delicate stomachs. I’d prefer we stick to enjoying bitter foods and a squeeze of fresh lemon on our foods and starter salads for blood glucose improvements. You get extra fibre and nutrients that way too!

The takeaway


As we navigate the choices available to us in the health market, remember that there is no magic bullet for achieving optimal health. If you’re considering a supplement, integrating it into your life should always complement a foundation built on balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, and mindful lifestyle practices.


The journey towards reclaiming your energy, managing food cravings, avoiding or reversing type 2 diabetes, and losing weight sustainably is deeply personal yet universally challenging. Exploring the potential of GLP-1 supplements versus weight loss injections represents just one avenue among many in the pursuit of health and wellness. Armed with knowledge and supported by professional guidance, you have the power to make choices that align with your path towards vitality.


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This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Healf