Latest developments in causes and treatments



GLP-1 Drugs Used to Reduce Cancer, Fight Dementia

Semaglutide started as a treatment for type 2 diabetes. It mimics a GLP-1 hormone causing food to be digested more slowly, triggering the production of insulin and regulating appetite by telling the brain, “I’m full.”

Diabetics taking a semaglutide such as Ozempic and Wegovy then reported significant weight loss. The significant weight loss caught everyone’s attention, and soon doctors could prescribe semaglutide for weight loss, even though medical insurance would not always pay for it.

Now Nicola Davis, science correspondent for The Guardian, has produced a survey article looking at many of the other studies being done on semaglutide. Many of the studies revolve around the single issue of weight loss. A massive study in Sweden following four million people for 40 years found that nearly 40% of all cancer diagnoses are linked to obesity. Therefore, reducing obesity should theoretically reduce cancer diagnoses.

The idea that GLP-1 agonists can be used to treat dementia is not really true. So far as I’ve seen, Ozempic and Wegovy show no signs of restoring lost mental capacity. What they might do is delay the onset of dementia or slow down the rate at which the disease progresses.

A recent large, double-blind randomized trial in Denmark involving 135,000 patients with type 2 diabetes found a noticeable reduction in diagnoses of dementia in the group receiving the GLP-1 agonist. The authors concluded:

Treatment with GLP-1 RAs may provide a new opportunity to reduce the incidence of dementia in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The authors are not suggesting that GLP-1 be prescribed to lower the likelihood of dementia, but that it be prescribed to lower the likelihood of diabetics experiencing dementia. Once again, the key element may be that for obese persons, the weight loss resulting from taking GLP-1 agonists also reduces the incidence of dementia.

A clinical trial is now underway to determine if GLP-1 agonists can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in people who are at risk due to “high levels of the Alzheimer’s disease protein amyloid.” Those results are not expected for three years. Another clinical trial is being conducted by Novo Nordisk into how semaglutide impacts the immune systems of people with Alzheimer’s. Results should be available in a little over one year.

Written by Steve O’Keefe. First published May 16, 2024.


“Can weight-loss drugs such as Ozempic also treat addiction and dementia?” The Guardian, May 14, 2024.

“Nearly 40% of the cancer cases are due to obesity, finds new study,” Times of India, May 10, 2024.

“Treatment with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists and incidence of dementia: Data from pooled double-blind randomized controlled trials and nationwide disease and prescription registers,” Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, February 2022.

Image Copyright: chemist4u, used under Creative Commons license.


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