To understand how GLP-1 agonists work, it helps to understand how the naturally occurring GLP-1 hormone works.

GLP-1 is a hormone that your small intestine makes. It has several roles, including:

  • Triggering insulin release from your pancreas: Insulin is an essential hormone that allows your body to use the food you eat for energy. It lowers the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. If you don’t have enough insulin, your blood sugar increases, leading to diabetes.
  • Blocking glucagon secretion: Glucagon is a hormone your body uses to raise your blood sugar levels when necessary. So, GLP-1 prevents more glucose from going into your bloodstream.
  • Slowing stomach emptying: Slower digestion means that your body releases less glucose (sugar) from the food you eat into your bloodstream.
  • Increasing how full you feel after eating (satiety): GLP-1 affects areas of your brain that processes hunger and satiety.

GLP-1 agonist medications work by mimicking this hormone. In medication terms, an agonist is a manufactured substance that attaches to a cell receptor and causes the same action as the naturally occurring substance. In other words, GLP-1 medications bind to GLP receptors to trigger the effects (or roles) of the GLP-1 hormone. The higher the dose of the GLP-1 agonist, the more extreme the effects.

If you have Type 2 diabetes, the medications help manage your blood sugar by triggering your pancreas to release more insulin. The slowed digestion also helps decrease blood sugar spikes.

The satiety effect of GLP1-agonists reduces your food intake, appetite and hunger. These combined effects often result in weight loss. GLP-1 Agonists: What They Are, How They Work & Side Effects (

1.) Differential chemistry (structure), mechanism of action, and pharmacology of GLP-1 receptor agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors

2.) A review of GLP-1 receptor agonists in type 2 diabetes: A focus on the mechanism of action of once-weekly agents

3.) User’s guide to mechanism of action and clinical use of GLP-1 receptor agonists

4.) GLP-1 receptor activated insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells: mechanism and glucose dependence

5.) Mechanisms behind GLP-1 induced weight loss

6.) GLP-1 and weight loss: unraveling the diverse neural circuitry

7.) GLP-1 receptor agonists for individualized treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus

8.) GLP-1 receptor agonists in the treatment of type 2 diabetes – state-of-the-art

9.) Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1)-Based Therapeutics: Current Status and Future Opportunities beyond Type 2 Diabetes

10.) Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1)