Semaglutide Rx medical pills in plastic Bottle (Credit: Shutterstock)

IRVINE, Calif. — Semaglutide, available under the brand name Wegovy, has become a popular prescription drug for weight loss. Now, researchers from the University of California-Irvine indicate that the drug may be very useful when it comes to avoiding heart attack, stroke, and other adverse cardiovascular events.

More specifically, Nathan D. Wong, PhD, professor and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program in the Division of Cardiology at the UCI School of Medicine, projects roughly 93 million Americans who are either overweight or obese may be suitable for a 2.5 mg dose of semaglutide. Study authors estimate, based on the known weight loss effects (15% of average weight loss) of this therapy, it may help as many as 43 million people live without obesity and prevent up to 1.5 million heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular issues over a 10-year span.

These findings are based on results from the STEP 1 trial, originally published in 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine. That project revealed that the 2.4 mg dosage of semaglutide approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of obesity reduces body weight by an average of 14.9 percent. This is in addition to reductions in numerous other cardiovascular risk factors like blood pressure and lipids.

Based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, researchers project 93 million U.S. adults who are currently overweight or obese would fit the STEP 1 eligibility criteria. The study finds that treatments involving semaglutide would help nearly half of this group slim down to a healthier weight. The research team applied body mass index (BMI) and other risk factor changes to cardiovascular disease risk scores among approximately 83 million people who did not have pre-existing cardiovascular disease. This led to an estimate of a reduction in 10-year cardiovascular disease risk of 1.8 percent — from 10.15 percent to 8.34 percent (or a relative risk reduction of 18 percent). That means up to 1.5 million cardiovascular events may be avoidable over 10 years.

obesity obese man belly fat
A man pinching his fat (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)

The study, though, did not estimate additional cardiovascular events that may be prevented from treatment among the approximately 10 million eligible people living with cardiovascular disease.

This 18-percent reduction in cardiovascular event risk for those who are overweight or are obese but without cardiovascular disease compares quite favorably to the recently announced top-line results of the SELECT trial. That project studied Wegovy in people with cardiovascular disease, noting an actual 20-percent decline in future heart issues.

“It is one of the biggest advances in the obesity and cardiovascular medicine world,” Prof. Wong adds in a university release.

“We now have a weight control therapy that also significantly reduces cardiovascular events beyond the diabetes population where it was originally studied,” Prof. Wong concludes. “It should be considered for patients who are obese or overweight with other risk factors where cardiovascular disease is their leading cause of disability and death.”

Drugs in semaglutide’s class often have side-effects. Thus, it is key for patients to always discuss the risks and benefits of any new therapies or medications with their physician. Moreover, the right dietary and physical activity regimen is also a key part of any foundation of weight management and cardiovascular risk reduction.

Prof. Wong also adds that considering the costs of these therapies, improved access is badly needed for high-risk yet underserved populations who may stand to benefit mightily.

Wegovy is a glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist injectable therapy approved by the FDA for chronic weight management in adults with who are either obese or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol). Officials note that Wegovy should be used in combination with a reduced caloric diet and an increased physical activity plan.

The study is published in the journal Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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