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Are Weight Loss Medicines for Well being or Thinness?

Are Weight Loss Medicines for Well being or Thinness?

#MyOzempicJourney has gone viral on TikTok. Individuals are calling their physician’s workplaces requesting semaglutide (Ozempic) by identify to get the identical dramatic weight reduction transformations they’ve seen on-line.

Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, MD

As an weight problems knowledgeable who was an early adopter of the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists, the category of remedy semaglutide belongs to, I’ve blended emotions about its new reputation in addition to different weight reduction drugs. Nevertheless, I am going to attempt to current a nonjudgmental view of the scientific concerns of weight reduction drugs. Particularly, I wish to focus on the advantages and potential harms of utilizing weight reduction drugs.

First, let’s begin with a little bit of housekeeping on what we name these drugs. Medicines used to scale back weight or deal with weight problems are generally known as “weight reduction drugs.” However the right US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) time period is “anti-obesity drugs” or “AOMs.”

The time period “anti-obesity” will be offensive to some sufferers. So my most well-liked time period is “metabolic drugs,” which emphasizes that “weight reduction drugs” do greater than induce weight reduction. Metabolic drugs additionally enhance metabolism and, for some drugs, additionally enhance cardiometabolic well being. Due to this fact, on this piece, I am going to use the phrases “weight reduction drugs,” “metabolic drugs,” and “anti-obesity drugs” interchangeably.

Let’s begin with the advantages of metabolic drugs.

Advantages of Weight Loss Medicines

Deal with the foundation explanation for hormonally pushed weight acquire. Weight problems is a fancy medical illness with well being penalties past the dimensions. Previously 10 years, our understanding of the pathophysiology of weight problems has elevated considerably. Health, wholesome meals decisions, and different life-style adjustments are foundational to weight reduction and weight problems remedy. However for many individuals, these life-style adjustments aren’t sufficient to lose and maintain weight. The event of medicines that have an effect on the incretin pathway, like GLP-1 agonists, is groundbreaking. GLP-1 agonists mimic the physique’s pure satiation pathway, which helps enhance starvation, lower vitality consumption, and enhance glycemic management. Furthermore, these drugs suppress the physique’s “weight regain” mechanisms.

Present extra instruments for metabolic fairness. Everybody will not be taking part in on the identical metabolic taking part in area. We all know this from research of twins which present a genetic predisposition to realize weight or develop weight problems. Moreover, weight regulation is extra complicated than “energy in vs energy out.” Over 70 weight acquire triggers make some individuals vulnerable to gaining weight. A standard false impression is that taking a weight reduction remedy is dishonest or giving the affected person an “unfair” weight reduction benefit. Nevertheless, the other is true. In an individual with insulin resistance, diabetes, or weight problems, metabolic drugs solely stage the metabolic taking part in area by addressing the underlying weight acquire triggers that forestall weight reduction.

Lead to much less blame for “failed” life-style adjustments. “I failed my food regimen.” I can not let you know how usually I’ve heard this phrase or stated it myself. Folks unfairly expertise blame and disgrace after they do not lose vital weight by life-style adjustments or regain the load. Nevertheless, knowledge reveals most individuals will lose solely 2%-5% of their physique weight with life-style adjustments alone. Research present that as much as 80% of weight might be regained inside 5 years. These sparse numbers are as a consequence of greater than willpower. As I discussed, highly effective neuroendocrine pathways sign your physique to regain the misplaced weight. Taking metabolic drugs suppresses these pathways.

Nevertheless, along with the advantages, the latest reputation of weight reduction drugs like semaglutide does spotlight some potential harms.

Potential Harms of Weight Loss Medicine

Weight bias. An obsession with thinness has been the usual of magnificence in Western tradition for over a century. As Dr Sabrina Strings highlights in her thought-provoking sociological guide Fearing the Black Physique, this preoccupation with thinness has each racist and sexist origins. Even the usual physique mass index (BMI), essentially the most generally used device for weight problems screening, is biased. Prompting requires physique composition and different metabolic well being indicators for use for well being evaluation as a substitute of the usual BMI, as I wrote in my earlier Medscape column. The prevalence of weight bias in society and healthcare raises the query, “Are we utilizing metabolic drugs for thinness or well being?” Clearly, as clinicians, our purpose is well being optimization. Nevertheless, we have to be cautious to not let weight bias obscure our goal scientific evaluation.

Moreover, prior to now decade, vital strides have elevated the acceptance of physique variety and individualized wholesome weight. Nevertheless, individuals exploiting semaglutide and different drugs off-label to develop into super-thin threatens the progress in physique variety acceptance. It additionally emphasizes the drugs’ weight reduction properties, which might overshadow metabolic drugs’ life-saving advantages for individuals with a medical indication for taking semaglutide and different metabolic drugs.

Well being inequity. Newer GLP-1 agonists can markedly enhance the well being of individuals with diabetes or weight problems. Nevertheless, diverting metabolic drugs to individuals for off-label or beauty use is inflicting remedy shortages. Moreover, the fee is prohibitive to individuals who want them most. The unjust entry to newer anti-obesity drugs worsens well being inequity and well being disparities.

Dangerous prescribing practices. The “road worth” of an Ozempic prescription is $1200-$1500. The general public views Ozempic as a secure drug, with “solely abdomen unintended effects.” Scripts are given with out important prescreening and monitoring to lower drug dangers. Nevertheless, it is easy to overlook critical dangers when promoting prescriptions with out screening and monitoring. For instance, GLP-1 agonists improve thyroid most cancers threat in individuals with a selected household historical past. Once more, it is easy to miss this threat with out taking a household historical past. Lastly, all drugs have unintended effects. Though GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide have undergone in depth testing, there are nonetheless dangers for brand new unintended effects. Due to this fact, individuals taking semaglutide and different metabolic drugs want monitoring.

Unhealthy weight reduction. One movie star boasted about her “18% physique fats” as a consequence of Ozempic. This physique fats proportion is on the decrease restrict of regular. Fats is a vital physique organ, particularly for ladies, who want increased physique fats ranges than males. Anti-obesity drugs are meant to scale back extra fats ranges to enhance metabolic well being, not make individuals underweight. Moreover, one other undesired aspect impact of GLP-1 agonists is the lack of muscle mass. Utilizing metabolic drugs within the unsuitable inhabitants will increase the danger for decreasing physique fats and muscle beneath wholesome ranges.

Weight regain. No matter you do to shed some pounds, you have acquired to have the ability to do much more to take care of weight reduction. Weight acquire is your physique’s default mode. That is why weight regain is widespread. Sadly, research additionally present weight regain with GLP-1 agonist cessation. Weight reduction and weight problems remedy require a complete biopsychosocial strategy to take care of weight reduction and enhance well being. If individuals solely take weight reduction drugs with out different life-style adjustments, it is unlikely that the load will keep off with out the prescription.

As medical doctors and scientific prescribers, we will entry essentially the most progressive and efficient weight reduction and metabolic well being enchancment instruments. Anti-obesity drugs/metabolic drugs are right here to remain and can solely enhance as know-how advances. Due to this fact, we should use our prescribing energy to boost individuals’s lives for not solely short-term weight reduction, but in addition long-term well being enchancment. That begins with guaranteeing we prescribe acceptable drugs to the proper individuals. After we give individuals “weight reduction drugs,” we’re additionally affecting their metabolic well being.

Knowledge, not societal traits, should information our scientific judgment. The need for individuals to change their our bodies to suit an ever-elusive magnificence customary is as previous as time. Final yr, curvy was in. This yr, thinness is again. That is why we clinicians should test our biases, in order that we base our medical remedy on info, not fads.

Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, MD, DipABOM, is an integrative weight problems specialist who makes a speciality of individualized options for emotional and organic overeating. Join along with her at or on Instagram @embraceyoumd. Her bestselling guide, Embrace You: Your Information to Reworking Weight Loss Misconceptions Into Lifelong Wellness, is’s Greatest General Weight Loss E book 2022 and one in every of’s picks for the 8 Greatest Weight-Loss Books to Learn in 2022.

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