Everything is changing for dieters, much of it miraculous, some of it alarming. In fact, very alarming. Here we are referring to two new drugs in particular: Ozempic, marketed by Novo Nordisk in the United States in 2017 and in France since 2019, and Wegovy around the same time.
These new drugs are being touted as weight-loss miracles for those needing to slim down for health reasons – or, as we’ve all recently discovered — others who spend much of their active lives on film sets, on runways, doing television, at highly visible social events, whether in the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America — everywhere.
It is because of this group of influencers — actors, models, anxious spouses of powerhouse directors or CEOs, politicians — that these new drugs, Ozempic, originally approved for diabetics, and Wegovy originally destined for those among the obese with high blood pressure, or soaring cholesterol, are products that are now difficult (sometimes impossible) to find in high-end pharmacies in the United States.
Why this shortage?
Because these new drugs are far more effective than prior obesity medications. A landmark clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2021 found that a regimen of a once-weekly dosage of semaglutide — the active ingredient for this new class of diet-affecting drug — led from 5% to as much as a 15% reduction in body weight.
You can understand the desperation: It’s as old as history itself. According to historians, there are at least 15 documented dietary regimes dating over millennia. Two of those regimes are from India, 12 from the Mediterranean region, and one, the oldest, which touted green tea as a weight loss aid, is from China around 2695 B.C.
However, the oldest Mediterranean diet is called Lycurgus’s diet – after a lawgiver who lived almost 2100 years ago, but without lots of applause for his dietary inventions. In fact, the historian Plutarch wrote at length about Lycurgus (albeit around 1,000 years after his death), claiming Lycurgus created “messes,” by which he meant rich and poor were advised to eat together and devour only plain simple food in order to provide the population with a sense of equality.
Hippocrates, the famed Greek father of medicine who was born around 460 B.C., also had weight loss tips. He invented the so-called humoral theory, a complicated idea which, when broken down, yields this unoriginal formula for losing pounds: Eat less and drink less and exercise more. Advice about as unremarkable as the method employed by the statesman Dionysius of Heraclea who used to pop his head (and only his head) out of the window of his home (a tower, in case you’re interested) so that no one could see how fat he really was. This may however not be a solution available to all of us.
So, what’s wrong with just swallowing Wegovy and Ozempic, assuming you can get either of them?
The side effects of these new drugs are not fully known. Some side effects associated with these drugs include inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), gallbladder problems including gallstones, increased risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in patients with type 2 diabetes, kidney problems (kidney failure), serious allergic reactions, changes in vision in people with type 2 diabetes, increased heart rate and depression or thoughts of suicide.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology published an update on Semaglutide Risks. The European Medicines Agency has also published a summary of the risk management plan for Wegovy which details important risks of Wegovy, how these risks can be minimized and how more information will be obtained about Wegovy’s risks and uncertainties.
Indeed, Wegovy has a black box warning because in rodent studies it caused thyroid tumors. Does it only cause tumors in rats? Who knows? If a patient’s family has a history of a specific kind of thyroid carcinoma, or another rare condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2), there may be plenty to worry about. No one is certain.
Of course, doctors point to the risks of leaving obesity untreated: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Europe and the U.S. Among The Top 10 Deadliest Diseases in the World (healthline.com), obesity is one of the highest causes of premature death. Likewise, in the Our World in Data database, obesity along with other weight-related conditions are top risk factors.
And before these new options were available, the most effective long-term treatment for obesity and maintenance of weight loss was gastric bypass and other bariatric surgeries first performed in 1954.
This is a major surgical procedure that poses health risks both in the short term, such as excessive bleeding and/or blood clots, and in the long-term leaks in the gastrointestinal system. and longer term gallstones, hernias, ulcers,
The end of dieting? Maybe…
Dieting has been something humans have done for thousands of years, if not longer. There is no one “magic” way to do so without some risk. Medications that produce weight loss could help millions of people who struggle with reaching a healthy body weight.
The benefits are anchored in the understanding that as food travels through the gut, signals are sent to the brain to enhance or suppress appetite. By hijacking the communication system between the gut and brain, it becomes easier to change eating behavior and avoid cravings.
Offering benefits similar to those produced by bariatric surgery with none of the recovery time or mentioned bariatric dangers, weight-loss medications are projected to become a $50 billion industry in the next decade.
These new weight loss drugs may produce their own alarming health risks, but we do know one thing: They can work but first speak with a doctor about the benefits and risks before deciding!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: James Ensor, Banquet of the Starved, 1915 – detail of oil painting Source: The 10 Greatest Feasts in Art, BBC article.