Drugs Cannot Solve Obesity, Experts Say

Measuring tape and drugs | Image by pogonici

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of certain diabetes medications to aid weight loss, some medical professionals are warning that drugs should not be relied upon as a solution to obesity.

The FDA has approved the use of orlistat, phentermine-topiramate, naltrexone-bupropion, liraglutide, and semaglutide for weight loss medication, according to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. Semaglutide, sold under the brand name Wegovy, is the only medication approved for long-term use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also authorized the use of obesity medication and bariatric surgery as a safe and effective method for adolescents in its latest guidelines, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. This was after research on obesity medication, such as Wegovy,  reduced the body mass indexes of teens.

Despite promising results, Graham MacGregor, who teaches cardiovascular medicine in London at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health, believes that relying solely on medication to treat obesity is misguided because it does not address the underlying root cause of obesity, which he said is the consumption of unhealthy food, as The Guardian reported.

“Unhealthy food is the biggest cause of death and disability in the whole world,” he claimed, according to The Guardian.

As an example, MacGregor pointed to the rise in prescription medications for blood pressure and high cholesterol, which he attributed to the overconsumption of salts and saturated fats found in junk food.

“I would think it’s also inevitable these [diabetes] drugs will be [similarly] widely used, because if you’re obese, it’s almost impossible to lose weight,” he said, according to The Guardian. He added, “It would be so much better to prevent this in the first place.

“The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to let the food industry go on feeding us this rubbish and promoting it … and then give drugs to try and stop the effects of all this unhealthy food? Or are you going to try and stop the food industry doing this?” MacGegor asked, as reported in The Guardian.

The National Library of Medicine published a 2021 study on the effects of junk-food-induced obesity on children during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that consumption of junk food products by children led to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, behavioral symptoms, dental caries, and other health issues.

This study concluded that there was “an urgent need” to spread awareness among children and teens about the “adverse effects of junk food.”

A subsequent study published in 2022 by the same organization studied unhealthy dietary patterns and their relation to obesity.

“The data and correlation figures included in this study represent evidence that constitutes a significant public health concern about the relationship between unhealthy diet consumption and obesity that further induces other risk factors including, hypertension, insulin resistance, and a systemic inflammatory milieu,” said researchers in the 2022 study.

The CDC recommends phasing out unhealthy foods and habits and replacing them with healthier ones over time.

Dr. Simon Cork, a physiology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, acknowledged that avoiding junk food completely is a real challenge in the modern world.

“You can’t really help the fact that you’re going to get obese to a large extent, because we live in this environment where food is available 24/7 and great swathes of the population maybe don’t have the funds to be able to pay for the healthiest foods,” Cork said, according to The Guardian.

“I do think these drugs are a really, really important weapon in the armoury to tackle the obesity crisis,” he added. “But I think you have to use it in conjunction with changing the whole environment in which we live,” said Cork, per The Guardian.

Obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. and around the world. At the same time, 37% of Americans — some 50 million — consume fast food every day, according to statistics from Zippia.com. Americans spent $296.6 billion on fast food in 2021.

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