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Clinical Research

Effects of liraglutide on appetite, food preoccupation, and food liking: results of a randomized controlled trial

International Journal of Obesity (2019) | Download Citation



Some weight loss medications, including liraglutide 3.0 mg, are thought to facilitate weight loss by improving appetite control. However, no studies have evaluated their long-term appetitive effects.


This study examined changes in appetite in a subsample of 113 adults with obesity (76.1% female, 55.8% white, BMI = 38.8 ± 4.8 kg/m2) who participated in a 52-week trial. Participants were randomized to intensive behavioral therapy alone (IBT-alone), IBT with liraglutide 3.0 mg/day (IBT-liraglutide), or IBT-liraglutide combined with a 12-week meal replacement diet (Multi-component). Participants rated their hunger, fullness after meals, liking of meals, and food preoccupation (all as experienced over the past week) using visual analogue scales (0–100 mm). Ratings were completed at baseline and eight subsequent visits over the year.


At week 52, participants treated by IBT-alone lost 6.2 ± 1.6% of baseline weight, compared with 11.8 ± 1.6% and 12.1 ± 1.5% in the IBT-liraglutide and Multi-component groups, respectively. Compared to IBT-alone, IBT-liraglutide participants reported larger reductions at week 6 in hunger (−0.3 ± 4.2 vs −16.8 ± 4.0 mm, p = .005) and food preoccupation (+0.2 ± 3.7 vs −16.3 ± 3.6 mm, p = .002) and larger increases in fullness (−5.1 ± 3.2 vs +9.8 ± 3.0 mm, p = .001). These significant differences persisted at all assessments through week 24. There were no differences between IBT-alone and IBT-liraglutide in meal liking. IBT-alone and Multi-component participants differed in hunger at week 6, and in food preoccupation at all assessments through week 24. Multi-component participants reported reduced liking of meals relative to the IBT-alone and IBT-liraglutide groups through weeks 40 and 52, respectively. There were no other differences among any groups at week 52.


Consistent with short-term studies, IBT-liraglutide participants reported greater improvements in hunger, fullness, and food preoccupation than those assigned to IBT-alone. Differences in appetite persisted for 24 weeks but were not maintained at week 52, despite the relatively greater weight losses in the liraglutide-treated participants at the trial’s end.

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Data availability

A deidentified data set will be made available to external investigators (upon request to the first author) once the research team has completed its analysis and reporting of secondary findings from the study. This is expected to be ~2 years after the publication of this report.

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Trial Registration: number, NCT02911818.


This work was supported by an Investigator-Initiated study grant from Novo Nordisk to TAW. JST was supported, in part, by Mentored Patient Oriented Research Award (K23DK116935) from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Disease. AMC was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K23NR017209.

Author information


  1. Department of Psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    • Jena Shaw Tronieri
    • , Thomas A. Wadden
    • , Olivia Walsh
    • , Robert I. Berkowitz
    • , Kathryn Gruber
    • , Sharon Leonard
    • , Zayna M. Bakizada
    •  & Ariana M. Chao
  2. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    • Robert I. Berkowitz
  3. Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    • Naji Alamuddin
  4. Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    • Ariana M. Chao


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Conflict of interest

JST and NA have served as consultants to Novo Nordisk. TAW reports serving on advisory boards for Novo Nordisk and Weight Watchers Inc. RIB serves as a consultant to Eisai Pharmaceutical, and AMC has consulted with Shire Pharmaceutical. The remaining authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Jena Shaw Tronieri.

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