Weight Loss Drugs: Why So Popular?

Feb 13, 2024

A New Wave of Weight-Loss Drugs

In the 1980s, Surgeon General Koop predicted an impending obesity crisis in the United States. Decades later, his prediction has become a reality, with over 40% of adults now classified as obese in the US. While weight itself is not necessarily an issue, this trend is concerning because it correlates with decreased life expectancy for the first time in history and an epidemic of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
These health issues also align with the increased consumption of ultra-processed foods. If Americans continue to rely on poor quality but affordable convenience foods marketed to them at the grocery store and fast food chains, this trend will continue.

What are Weight Loss Drugs?

While lifestyle changes remain the foundation of weight management recommendations by doctors, new drugs like semaglutide are being offered at an increasing rate for those struggling with obesity. By mimicking our natural GLP-1 hormone (what is released when we eat), these drugs decrease appetite, slow digestion, and increase feelings of fullness, leading to reduced calorie intake.
Some names of these GLP-1 receptor agonists include Wegovy, Ozempic, and Rybelsus. These drugs come with a hefty price, often exceeding $15,000 per year, and are typically not covered by insurance unless you have specific health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Are Weight Loss Drugs Effective?

Studies show these drugs can help individuals lose 5-10% of their body weight. In other words, the average weight loss achieved with these drugs is typically moderate, not a complete solution to obesity. Dr. Cecilia Low Wang shares, "If you lose weight with new drugs, you likely will need to keep taking the medications forever to keep the weight off. People who stop taking Wegovy and Ozempic often gain weight back relatively quickly...You can always choose to stop the medications, but it’s important to know that you will have a very high risk of regaining lost weight."
It's also important to note that although weight loss drugs can help encourage people to eat less, eating less is not necessarily synonymous with eating healthy. The quality of the food you're eating really matters.
Weight is also only one factor of overall wellness, and not necessarily an accurate one. Just because you may weigh less after taking these drugs does not always mean you will be healthier overall.

The Health Impact of Taking Weight Loss Drugs

Moreover, weight loss drugs are not without side effects, ranging from nausea and vomiting to more serious risks like increased risk of pancreatitis, gastroparesis, and bowel obstruction. The most crucial concern is the long-term dependence they create. Studies suggest that stopping the medication often leads to regaining the lost weight, raising questions about their sustainability and affordability. They are not a quick fix and require ongoing financial commitment.

The Bottom Line

While these drugs can help individuals struggling with obesity to lose weight, there are concerns about their side effects and the long-term effectiveness for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These drugs are centered on eating less, which is not necessarily synonymous with eating healthy foods - and we know that the quality of our food matters. Although weight loss drugs may seem like a quick fix, they are likely not a reasonable solution to overall health in the long term. Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy both mentally and physically:
Drink plenty of filtered water (bonus - add salt for electrolytes and minerals!)
Eat whole, nutritious foods that are free of additives, dyes, and preservatives whenever possible. Always read the label and let the Trash Panda app help you decipher ingredients when buying packaged foods.
Be mindful of your consumption of ultra-processed foods. These foods are engineered to be highly addictive and are therefore hard to consume in moderation.
Prioritize your main meals around the consumption of fresh protein + vegetables to balance blood sugar and stay satisfied between meals.
Eat a wide variety of fresh (or frozen!) whole fruits and vegetables to get the most nutrient-dense and fiber-rich options.
Meal prepping is a great way to eat nutritious meals and save you time and money during the week. Cooking at home helps prevent eating processed and fast foods.
Consume healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity you enjoy every day will keep your body and mind happy!
*Disclaimer: It's crucial to consult with your healthcare professional to understand the risks and benefits in the context of your individual health goals.
Reading ingredients made easy. For quicker, healthier decisions.
Start Scanning (it's free)
Trash Panda
Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play