Longevity drug? Study finds taking Ozempic/Wegovy may also benefit brain health

Oxford University analysis finds semaglutide does not negatively impact brain health and may in fact reduce risk of cognitive problems.

A new study has found that semaglutide, better known as Ozempic and Wegovy, does not negatively impact brain health and may even provide benefits for cognition and nicotine dependence. The research, carried out by the University of Oxford and supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and the Medical Research Council, offers reassuring news for people using the popular obesity and diabetes medication, which has recently faced questions regarding its safety.

The findings revealed that semaglutide is not associated with an increased risk of adverse neurological or psychiatric outcomes, such as dementia, depression, or anxiety; on the contrary, the drug was linked to a lower risk of cognitive problems and nicotine dependence compared with the other medications studied.

Longevity.Technology: A year ago, we suggested the potential for semaglutide to be considered a longevity drug, due to its beneficial impact in multiple areas of human biology, and this new study adds further weight to the argument. Beyond promoting weight loss and preventing diabetes, the drug has also demonstrated efficacy in reducing cardiovascular complications in human studies, as well as showing neuroprotective effects in mouse studies, which now appear to be supported by human data in the Oxford study.  

The study, published in eClinicalMedicine, analyzed data from over 100 million patient records in the US, including more than 20,000 individuals taking semaglutide. Through a comprehensive analysis, the researchers compared the neurological and psychiatric outcomes of patients on semaglutide with those on three other diabetes medications: sitagliptin, empagliflozin and glipizide.

Specifically, semaglutide was associated with a significantly reduced risk of cognitive deficits and dementia when compared with sitagliptin and glipizide. Moreover, the drug showed a reduced risk of nicotine misuse in most comparisons, although the researchers note that some of the findings lost statistical significance after adjustment for multiple comparisons.

READ MORE: Our exclusive interview with the scientist whose work led to Wegovy/Ozempic

“Our results suggest that semaglutide use could extend beyond managing diabetes, potentially offering unexpected benefits in the treatment and prevention of cognitive decline and substance misuse,” said Dr Riccardo De Giorgi, Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study. “The findings of our study therefore not only help reassure the millions of patients relying on semaglutide for diabetes management, but, if confirmed, might also have significant implications for public health in terms of reducing cognitive deficit and smoking rates among patients with diabetes.”

The study found no significant differences in negative control outcomes between the cohorts, suggesting that the observed associations are unlikely to be due to unmeasured confounding factors. The researchers also noted that while semaglutide is often prescribed for individuals with obesity, in addition to those with Type 2 diabetes, the findings of this study are not necessarily applicable to non-diabetic individuals.

“Our study is observational and these results should therefore be replicated in a randomised controlled trial to confirm and extend our findings,” said Dr Max Taquet, Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford and senior author of the study. “Nevertheless, they are good news for patients with psychiatric disorders, who are at an increased risk of diabetes.”