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Gila Monster Venom - Its Weight Loss Wonder And More

The search for effective weight loss drugs has been going on for decades. Who would believe that the saliva of a venomous lizard can be converted into such? The Gila monster venom has been used not only for weight reduction medications but as well as medicines for diabetes.

Paula M. Graham
Mar 29, 202344 Shares962 Views
The Gila monster venomhas long been studied for its potential medicinal properties.
Recent research has also suggested that the venom from the said lizard may have weight loss benefits. In addition, there haven positive feedback on its possible use in treating type 2 diabetes.
These discoveries have led to an increased interest in the potential of this lizard’s venom as a treatment for obesity and related metabolic disorders.
Scientists and researchers are studying the venom’s mechanism of action and evaluating its safety and efficacy as a weight loss drug.
In this topic, we will explore the potential of Gila monster venom in aiding weight loss and the current state of research in this area.

Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) venom extraction at KRZ

What Is A Gila Monster?

Just like its relative the Mexican beaded lizard, the Gila (pronounced “hee-lah”) monster is a venomous lizard.
Well, beware of the Gila monster venom!
In February 2015, the Guinness World Records proclaimed itas “the world’s most venomous lizard.”
Named after the Gila River Basin in the southwestern United States, which is part of the lizard’s natural habitat, this lizard uses its venom primarily for defense.
Still, they also use it to subdue prey such as small mammals and birds.
Scientific ClassificationDetails
PhylumChordata (animals that mostly with backbones)
ClassReptilia (reptiles)
OrderSquamata (scaled reptiles)
FamilyHelodermatidae (beaded lizards)
GenusHeloderma (venomous lizards)
Scientific NameHeloderma suspectum
When a human gets bitten by a Gila monster, that person will experience:
  • severe pain
  • swelling
  • nausea
The good news is that Gila monster bites are rare and typically occur only when the lizard is provoked or handled.
As the Guinness World Records stated on its website:
Happily, human deaths from these species are few, because only relatively small amounts of venom are injected when the lizard bites.- Guinness World Records
Gila monsters are rare, too.
They are found only in certain areas of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico, including parts of:
  • Arizona
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Sonora (in Mexico)
  • Utah
A black Gila monster with pink blotches near a pond, with its front left leg partly dipped in the water
A black Gila monster with pink blotches near a pond, with its front left leg partly dipped in the water
They are also listed as a protected species in the U.S. and Mexico, which further limits their distribution and makes it illegal to collect or harm them.
Gila monsters are known for their large size, stocky build, and distinctive appearance:
  • bead-like scales
  • thick tail
  • bright orange and black coloration
They are primarily nocturnal (active at night) and reclusive, spending much of their time hiding in burrows or under rocks during the day.
Gila Monster FactsDetails
Habitatdesert, woodland, shrubland
Lifespan20 to 40 years
Colorblack, brown, gray, white, tan
Sizeapproximately 20 inches (about 50 centimeters)
Weight1.3 kilograms to 2.2 kg. (3 pounds to 5 lbs.)
Top Speed 15 miles per hour (mph)
Dietcarnivore (eats meat)
Usual Foodbirds, frogs, lizards, small mammals, remains of dead animals
Favorite Foodeggs
Fun FactIt stores fat on its tail.

Gila Monster Venom Weight Loss

There is some evidence to suggest that components of Gila monster venom may have potential benefits for weight loss.
Its venom contains a peptide (a molecule made up of two or more amino acids that are linked together by chemical bonds called peptide bonds) called exendin-4.
Exendin-4 has been found to have properties that may aid in weight loss. It is similar in structure and function to glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).
GLP-1 is a human hormone produced in the gut that has a part in regulating appetite.
In addition, it is known to play a role in glucose metabolism, the processes by which glucose (a type of sugar) is converted into energy in the body.
Moreover, GLP-1 stimulates insulin release from the pancreas and reduces the production of glucose by the liver.
Studies have shown that exendin-4 can help to:
  • suppress appetite
  • increase feelings of fullness
  • slow down the rate at which food is absorbed in the stomach
These effects of the Gila monster venom can lead to a reduction in caloric intake, which may contribute to weight loss.

What is this new revolution in weight loss medication?

Gila Monster Diabetes Medicine

The venom of Gila monsters has played an important role in the development of diabetesmedications.
Interestingly, as previously mentioned, Gila monster venom contains a protein called exendin-4.
It has been found to have properties that are similar to GLP-1 receptor agonists, a class of drugs or medications used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, by the way, is a condition in which the body is unable to properly use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Other GLP-1 receptor agonists have also been developed and are used as diabetes medications, such as these two:
  • dulaglutide (brand name: Trulicity)
  • liraglutide (brand name: Victoza)
While it may seem counterintuitive to use a venomous lizard’s venom as a source of medicine, the discovery of exendin-4 has been a major breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes.

Gila Monster Exenatide

A synthetic version of exendin-4 called exenatide has been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Exenatide (brand name: Byetta) is also used off-label as a weight loss drug.
That’s because the side effect of this drug, based on a molecule found in the Gila monster venom or saliva, is weight reduction.
Exenatide works by mimicking the action of the hormone GLP-1, which stimulates insulin secretion and decreases appetite.
Studies have shown that exenatide can:
  • reduce appetite
  • increase feelings of fullness
  • help improve insulin sensitivity
It is thought that exenatide’s effects on appetite may be responsible for the weight loss observed in some patients taking the drug.
Some research suggests that exenatide may also have potential benefits for weight loss in people without diabetes.
The potential benefits of exenatide are best obtained through prescription medications like Byetta, under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

Semaglutide Gila Monster

Semaglutide is another medication (another kind of GLP-1 receptor agonist) derived from Gila monster venom and used to treat type 2 diabetes.
Just like exenatide, semaglutide mimics the action of GLP-1.
It is usually given as a subcutaneous injection (a type of injection that delivers medication or other substances into the subcutaneous layer, which is the layer of tissue directly beneath the skin) once a week.
Semaglutide has also been approved for use in weight management in individuals with obesity.
A black Gila monster; a woman in tight black pants measuring her hips with a tape measure
A black Gila monster; a woman in tight black pants measuring her hips with a tape measure

Ozempic Gila Monster

Ozempic is the brand name for the generic drug semaglutide, which is also sold under the brand name Wegovy.
It is often used in combination with other diabetes medications, such as metformin.
Metformin is often prescribed as a first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, either alone or in combination with other medications, such as - you guessed it right - Ozempic.
Thanks to research made on the Gila monster venom, there’s another option for weight loss medication - with Hollywood celebrities, no less, trying it out.
In his opening speech at the 95th Academy Awards, aka 2023 Oscars, TV host Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the glamorous event, said, as quoted by Insider:
Everybody looks so great. When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’- Jimmy Kimmel
Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk manufactures Ozempic and Wegovy.
Ozempic was first launched in the U.S in December 2017. It was subsequently approved for use in other countries, including the European Union, in 2018.
In June 2021, the FDA approved Wegovy for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition.
Wegovy was launched shortly after its approval, so it became available for prescription in the U.S. in the summer of 2021.
A black Gila monster with pink blotches near a pond, with its front left leg partly dipped in the water
A black Gila monster with pink blotches near a pond, with its front left leg partly dipped in the water

People Ask

How Many Gila Monsters Are Left?

Although exact population numbers are not available, the species is considered to be relatively common throughout much of its range, and is not currently listed as endangered.
According to a July 2022 article by A-Z Animals, “between 450 and 800” Gila monsters were in Utah, with “several thousand” of these lizards in other parts of the U.S.

Can You Buy A Gila Monster?

In many places, it is legal to buy a Gila monster as a pet, but it is important to note that these are venomous animals and require specific care and handling.
In some locations, it may also be illegal to own a Gila monster as a pet without a special permit.

What Is The Downside Of Ozempic?

Some of the downsides of Ozempic may include:
  • injection site reactions (redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site)
  • gastrointestinal side effects (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain)
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • thyroid tumors (in animal studies; not yet seen in humans)

Final Thoughts

It’s worth noting that Gila monster venom should not be consumed directly or used as a weight loss aid, as it can be dangerous and potentially lethal.
Therefore, it is important to follow the instructions of your healthcare provider when taking any of the medications mentioned in this article and to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels to ensure they are within a healthy range.
The Gila monster venom makes a significant contribution in the field of medicine, with hopes that more studies and breakthroughs will be created in the future.
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