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Is liraglutide and behavioural therapy for weight loss effective?

A new study examines the effectiveness of combining liraglutide and behavioral therapy for weight loss.

Obesity is a common condition in the United States, as almost 40 percent of American adults suffered from obesity in 2015.  Obese individuals have an increased risk of many chronic conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.  Moreover, obese individuals may experience mean comments or negative thoughts about their body size.

While there are many diets and programs advertised to help people lose weight, not all of them are necessarily effective, so researchers are searching for the best weight-loss strategies given the high rate of obesity in the United States. Two potentially effective strategies include liraglutide, which is prescribed to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, and intensive behavioral therapy.  A study published in the journal Obesity examined the combined effects of liraglutide and intensive behavioral therapy on weight loss in obese patients.

The study group consisted of 282 obese adults at 17 different clinics in the United States. The control group included 140 individuals who received a placebo medication along with 23 15-minute sessions of intensive behavioral therapy for 56 weeks. The experimental group consisted of 142 individuals that received 3.0 milligrams of liraglutide along with the same intensive behavioral therapy as the control group for 56 weeks.

At the end of the study period, 61.5 percent of the experimental group achieved clinically-meaningful weight loss compared to 38.8 percent of the control group. Clinically-meaningful weight loss describes a loss of five percent of initial body mass, or more.  Furthermore, the mean weight loss for the experimental group was 7.4 percent of body mass, and the mean weight loss for the control group was 4.0 percent. Clinically-meaningful weight loss in experimental and control groups was linked to decreased waist circumference, triglyceride levels, and improved quality of life.

The results of this study suggest that intensive behavioral therapy combined with liraglutide may be effective in helping people with obesity achieve clinically meaningful weight loss.  It also suggests that intensive behavioral therapy alone may also be a positive weight loss strategy, as many people in the control group also achieved weight loss.  More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these strategies.

Written by Avery Bisbee


Adult Obesity Facts. (2018, August 13). Retrieved February 24, 2020, from

Doheny, K. (2015, August 31). Diabetes Drug Liraglutide Shows Promising Weight Loss Benefit. Retrieved February 24, 2020, from

Intensive behavioral therapy and liraglutide 3.0 mg show positive results for weight loss. (2020, February 24). Retrieved February 24, 2020, from

Wadden, T. A., Shaw Tronieri, J., Sugimoto, D., Taulo Lund, M., Auerbach, P., Jensen, C., & Rubino, D. (2020). Liraglutide 3.0mg and Intensive Behavioral Therapy (IBT) for Obesity in Primary Care: The SCALE IBT Randomized Controlled Trial. Obesity28(3). doi: 10.1002/oby.22726

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay



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