From fad diets, dubious supplements, and calorie-free foods, to intensive workout regimens and fasting, different methods for weight loss have been used according to the trends, all without much large-scale success. Now, new breakthrough drugs that target the metabolism on a hormonal level have been approved by the FDA. It makes us wonder, could this hormone-based treatment be the answer to the question of how to lose weight?
The world is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Obesity is the extreme accumulation of excessive fat that ultimately presents a health risk. Those with a BMI of 30 or greater are considered obese. Obesity is a deadly condition that is responsible for at least 4.7 million deaths every year. The complications of being overweight and obese include hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and an overall lowered quality of life. 13% of the global population is obese and nearly 42% of Americans are obese as of 2020, a number that has been growing dramatically since the 1970s. The Covid-19 shutdown only exacerbated the situation.
It’s clear that something has to be done about the nation’s and the world’s obesity pandemic. Like all problems that need to be solved, obesity creates an open window for innovation. This obesity crisis makes the perfect opportunity for pharma companies to make a fortune, and already, many have risen to the occasion.
Endocrinology and Weight Loss
The future of weight loss seems to be based, not on healthy eating or exercise, but in endocrinology. This new approach to weight management tackles the issue on a chemical level by injecting the body with synthetic hormones to regulate hunger. Thus, the person has a decreased appetite, eats less, and as a result, loses weight. This approach is very effective, but also very expensive.
One article describes how an expensive endocrinologist, who charges $900 for a consultation and $450 for follow-ups, helps elites lose weight with prescription drugs. One patient, Fabiana Saba, lost 137 pounds in under a year. It’s interesting to note, however, that she remains on a number of prescriptions to this day, including not only synthetic hormones that suppress appetite, but also other drugs to promote weight loss, including antidepressants and methamphetamines.
Weight management is tackled on a chemical level by injecting the body with synthetic hormones to regulate hunger.
The revolutionary hormonal weight loss drugs that are making headlines are Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Tirzepatide, also known as Mounjaro. Both use replications of slightly different hormones to create feelings of fullness and reduce hunger. Due to the remarkable effectiveness of the drugs and the number of obese people in the country, the stocks of both companies are expected to skyrocket in the near future. Currently, these drugs are only available to those who are considered obese (BMI over 30) and those who are overweight (BMI over 25) with a comorbidity like diabetes.
According to the trials, 63% of participants taking Tirzepatide in the trial studies easily lost 20% of their weight in 72 weeks. Wegovy had similarly promising results. The drug helped 33% of patients lose more than 20% of their body weight over a 68-week clinical trial period. So, for desperate people, the medications offer a new hope at effectively overcoming obesity, as well as the onslaught of health concerns that come along with it.
The first and most apparent downside to these new drugs is the cost. Tirzepatide costs $954.70 for about a month, which totals around $11,456 per year. Before insurance, Wegovy costs $1,627 per month, which is $19,524 per year. Essentially, at this point, the treatment would be only available to the very wealthy, especially considering that the trials lasted over a year. So theoretically, if you wanted similar results, you would need a similar timeline.
Both Tirzepatide and Wegovy also create a number of unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Many people have to take additional nausea medication along with the weight loss prescription, adding further dependency on pharmaceuticals.
Weight loss drugs are unsustainable. As this article on Wegovy points out, patients will be on the drug for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the results are not lasting, and the body bounces back to normal consumption levels after going off the drugs, leading to regaining all the weight that was lost. If these people already couldn’t lose weight on their own and were unable to live a balanced lifestyle, how will their weight loss last? This points to the fact that they may become dependent on the new medication to keep their appetite and pounds down, which is an ideal situation for these pharmaceutical companies.
Wegovy patients will be on the drug for the rest of their lives to maintain their results.
Another concerning fact is that no one knows the long-term effects of these new treatments on the human body. As we have seen with the hormonal birth control experiment, messing with biology never goes well. These weight loss drugs use synthetic hormones, and we can expect consequences in the long term. In fact, in 2020, a weight-loss drug called Belviq was withdrawn from the market because of an increased risk of cancer.
The most effective way to lose weight is through proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. This means eating balanced meals, getting enough exercise, getting quality sleep, and finding productive ways to manage stress.
This poses the question: Is artificially suppressing hunger really changing anything? Hunger suppressants for weight loss only solve the surface-level issue, not the underlying one. Why are so many people today obese?
The causes of obesity are nuanced, from genetics to our culture, but it ultimately comes down to each individual's own behavior. Obesity is very much an emotional and lifestyle issue, often a physical manifestation of an underlying issue, and chemically suppressing someone’s hunger won’t actually solve that problem. The truth is, most morbidly obese people don’t eat because of hunger in the first place. Although it would be less profitable for pharma companies and offer fewer immediate results for clients, the better solution would be to implement a sustainable diet and exercise routine for lasting results. Above all, people should be taught the importance of nutrition and balance in their lives.
The revolutionary weight loss pills by Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk ironically underscore that there is only one true way to lose weight – running at a calorie deficit. The chemical weight loss pills achieve this by artificially suppressing the patients’ hunger, causing them to eat less and lose weight. Essentially, the new drugs offer hope for people who are desperately obese and are willing to dish out a fortune to corporations in exchange for fast weight loss, those whose present health concerns due to obesity outweigh any future side effects. Then, hopefully, they can learn better life habits to maintain a healthy weight and get off the drugs, which otherwise would be needed indefinitely.
For some, this could be the last-resort solution they desperately need, but like all drugs, especially new ones, we must proceed with caution. Like we’ve seen before, and again and again, implementing immediate change is never sustainable. The best results for weight loss are achieved in the long term, through a gradual process that takes patience, diligence, and self-control, ultimately implementing lasting life changes.
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