The obesity rate in the United States is climbing at an absolutely incredible pace. It’s estimated that roughly 40% of all adults in the United States are obese, and a further 30% are at least overweight. The statistics are unsettling, especially with how many diseases have been linked to elevated body weight. Being overweight or obese dramatically increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, heart disease, and even certain cancers.
Unfortunately, many societal factors have hindered efforts to promote physical fitness. We’re surrounded by endless meal options, and some of the most unhealthy are often also the easiest to get and the cheapest. The work-work-work habit of many Americans often doesn’t leave much room for an exercise routine, especially when the majority of adults report feeling chronically stressed. It’s a combination of factors that makes it incredibly easy to gain weight and harder to lose it. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for the treatment of obesity, but it’s actually not new at all.
The drug is called Wegovy, and it has already been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The compound in Wegovy that does the heavy lifting is called semaglutide, and it’s an analog of a natural hormone that can affect feelings of hunger. Its properties make it an option for diabetes sufferers (if they can handle the side effects), and as more and more patients have been treated with the drug, doctors have reported dramatic weight loss as a positive side effect.
As is often the case when a company realizes one of its drugs may be useful for the treatment of more than one ailment, pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk decided to seek approval for semaglutide in the treatment of obesity as well. The FDA has now given the drug the all-clear. In trials, the drug — in combination with diet and exercise — helped patients lose over 12% more weight than those who took a placebo along with the same lifestyle changes.
As promising as this drug sounds, it’s not without its risks. Side effects can include diarrhea, vomiting, headache, and abdominal pain. In animal trials of the drug, thyroid tumors appeared in some cases, though those same tumors didn’t appear in human trials. Nevertheless, the drug will carry a warning on the box stating that it may increase the chances of developing thyroid tumors.
Ultimately, aside from the rare medical conditions that actually prevent the body from losing weight regardless of diet and exercise, the best solution to obesity is a diet low in processed foods and sugars and rich in plants and high-quality protein, along with plenty of physical activity. It’s often difficult to change your lifestyle to emphasize these factors, but this should always be your first move if you are determined to lose weight. Can an obesity drug help? Yeah, it might, but it’s no coincidence that in the drug trials, it was prescribed along with diet modification and exercise.