By John Salak –
Potentially harmful weight loss trends are nothing new. The carnivore diet requires eating mostly meat and therefore avoiding key vitamins and minerals the body needs from fruits and vegetables. The keto diet is another trendy option, however, it restricts foods that help fight cancer and heart disease. Then there is any number of cleanses reliant on people essentially starving themselves. The main concern with all these is that they are effective in the short term but hazardous to the person’s health-long term. Sadly, the latest diet craze isn’t looking to flip the script, even if there is growing concern that it is putting countless strangers in danger.
Interest in Semaglutide or Ozempic, as it’s been branded, has exploded in recent years. Not, however, for the reasons originally intended. The drug was initially designed to treat people with type 2 diabetes. Forbes noted that Ozempic effectively helps type 2 diabetes sufferers regulate their blood sugar with a once-weekly injectable medication. The drug is not insulin, but it does help the pancreas naturally produce more insulin when blood sugar is high. It is also attractive because, unlike insulin shots, Ozempic rarely causes low blood sugar.
“It boosts the release of insulin by the pancreas in response to food intake, which helps to control blood sugar. Likewise, it reduces the release of glucagon—a hormone that increases blood glucose—thereby also helping to control blood sugar,” gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher McGowan told Forbes.
The drug, however, has some interesting side effects that have attracted an entirely new clientele. It has been found to reduce appetite and cravings by altering the hunger centers in the brain. It can also slow the stomach emptying rate, extending the feeling of fullness after meals. “The net result is decreased hunger, prolonged fullness and ultimately weight loss,” he continued. In short, it can help someone lose weight fast.
Not surprisingly, this has caused the drug to catch on with lots of people, including a big dollop of stars. Variety reports that during a few months in 2022, Ozempic became both one of the popular trends among actors and one the worst-kept weight loss secret in Hollywood. The new attention and demand also appear to have caused the price to skyrocket.
“It’s easily going to be $1,200 to $1,500 per month. If you go out and buy an Ozempic pen from a pharmacist, that’s what you’re getting charged,” Hollywood nutritionist Matt Mahowald told Variety.
Naturally, the increased demand and rising costs have made it more difficult for those who need it most—diabetes patients—to get a hold of the drug for legitimate reasons. It has resulted in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently placing Ozempic on its drug shortage list. All this has occurred even though the FDA has not approved Ozempic for weight loss.
“It’s become a huge problem, everyone jumping on this bandwagon. The insurance companies are refusing to cover this for anyone who is not diabetic. It’s led to panic. Pharmacies have units on back order,” Mahowald explained to Variety.
Demand aside, what may be more frightening is that Ozempic might not represent the best weight loss tactic. It might even be dangerous. Since it is a newer drug, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding its long-term effect. Some worry that like many weight-loss trends that preceded it, the drug may be far from a perfect solution for dropping a few pounds, let alone dealing with obesity. Published reports note that several gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea have already been cited by users.
“While this has received significant attention in the media, Ozempic and related GLP-1 medications are not designed to be used in this way, can lead to potential adverse events and ultimately the weight that is lost will be regained. Further, this off-label use of Ozempic is greatly impacting the availability of the medication for those who need it most—individuals with type 2 diabetes,” McGowan warns.