GLP-1s Improve Taste Sensitivity, Reduce Body Weight in Patients with Obesity


Two posters presented at ENDO 2024 assessed semaglutide’s impact on taste sensitivity and tirzepatide’s role in body weight reduction.

The use of glucagon-like peptide-1 agonists (GLP-1s) in recent years has increased substantially due to their association with significant weight loss. According to a poll by KFF, 1 in 8 adults in the United States said they have taken a GLP-1 at some point, with 4 in 10 saying the primary reason was to lose weight. The overall popularity of the drugs has also increased, with 32% of adults in 2024 saying they have heard “a lot” about them, up from 19% in 2023.1

GLP-1s Improve Taste Sensitivity, Reduce Body Weight in Patients with Obesity / MKPhoto -

GLP-1s Improve Taste Sensitivity, Reduce Body Weight in Patients with Obesity / MKPhoto -

In 2 posters presented at the Endocrine Society’s 2024 annual meeting, held June 1 to 4 in Boston, Massachusetts, investigators took a deeper look into GLP-1s, examining semaglutide’s impact on taste sensitivity and tirzepatide’s role in body weight reduction in patients with obesity.

READ MORE: GLP-1s May Lower Risk of Acute Pancreatitis in Patients with T2D, Obesity

In the first poster, investigators from the University Medical Center in Slovenia conducted a study to examine if “semaglutide would improve the taste sensitivity and modulate the tongue transcriptomic profile associated with gustatory coding in women with obesity.”2 The study was a 16-week, single-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial that included 30 patients who received either 1 mg of semaglutide once weekly or a placebo.

For the study, researchers assessed the sensitivity of 4 basic tastes using saturated strips and evaluated brain responses by functional MRI. Tongue biopsies were also performed to analyze gene expression. Investigators found that taste sensitivity increased by a mean of 2.5 points in patients treated with semaglutide. In test analyses, the genes EYA, PRMT8, CRLF1, and CYP1B1—which are associated with taste signaling, neural plasticity, and renewal of taste buds in the tongue—exhibited differential mRNA gene expression.

Additionally, the angular gyrus in patients receiving semaglutide had increased functional activity in response to tasting a sweet solution compared to distilled water 30 minutes after having a standardized meal.

“The general public will be interested to learn of the potential novel effects of this popular therapeutic class widely used for the treatment of diabetes and obesity,” Mojca Jensterle Sever, lead author on the study, said in a release.2 “Clinicians will likely correlate the findings with reports from their patients on changes in desire for certain foods, which go beyond broad changes in appetite and satiety that help them lose weight.”

In the second poster, a team of investigators from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre and Eli Lilly conducted a study to assess the association between baseline obesity-related multimorbidity and the weight-reduction efficacy of tirzepatide.3 Data was gathered from the SURMOUNT clinical trial program, which included 4 studies that assessed the efficacy and safety of tirzepatide as an adjunct to lifestyle intervention on chronic weight management in adults with or without type 2 diabetes who had a BMI of 27 kg/m2 or greater.4

The study cohort included 4726 patients who had obesity or overweight and an obesity-related complication. Of those, 938 patients had type 2 diabetes. Investigators found that, in all 4 of the trials, patients treated with tirzepatide had greater body weight reductions regardless of the number of obesity-related complications when compared to placebo.

“In the SURMOUNT clinical trial program, tirzepatide treatment in people with obesity or overweight resulted in greater reductions in body weight across the trials in the program compared to placebo, irrespective of the presence of obesity-related multimorbidity,” the authors concluded. “These data are consistent with the overall results from each study.”

Click here for more of our coverage from ENDO 2024.

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1. KFF Health Tracking Poll May 2024: The Public’s Use and Views of GLP-1 Drugs. News Release. KFF. May 10, 2024. Accessed June 17, 2024.
2. Jensterle Sever M, Kovac J, Vovk A, et al. Once-Weekly Semaglutide and Taste Perception in Women with Obesity. Presented at: ENDO 2024; June 1-4, 2024; Boston, MA.
3. Machineni S, Sattar N, Dunn JP, et al. Weight Reduction Efficacy with Tirzepatide by Obesity-related Complications: A Post Hoc Analysis from the SURMOUNT 1-4. Presented at: ENDO 2024; June 1-4, 2024; Boston, MA.
4. le Roux CW, Zhang S, Aronne LJ, et al. Tirzepatide for the treatment of obesity: Rationale and design of the SURMOUNT clinical development program. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2023 Jan;31(1):96-110. doi: 10.1002/oby.23612. Epub 2022 Dec 7. PMID: 36478180; PMCID: PMC10107501.
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