Booming Demand for Obesity Pill to Solve Junk Food Problem

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by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola:

STORY AT-A-GLANCE
  • The antiobesity injection Wegovy (semaglutide) has become so popular that, in early May 2023, Novo Nordisk announced it would cut the supply of starter doses for the U.S. market to “safeguard continuity of care” for existing patients
  • To maintain weight loss achieved on Wegovy, you must continue taking the drug indefinitely, or the weight will come back

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  • The active ingredient in Wegovy, semaglutide, works by mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which targets areas of your brain that regulate appetite and food intake. It also lowers blood sugar and slows the passage of food through your gut
  • In addition to a long list of common side effects, including severe nausea and vomiting, Wegovy also comes with warnings for thyroid parafollicular cell (C-cell) tumors, pancreatitis, gallbladder problems, acute kidney injury, diabetic retinopathy and suicidal thinking and behavior
  • If we are ever going to level out or diminish obesity and obesity-related cancer rates, we must address the underlying problem, which is a preponderance of ultraprocessed foods in our diet. Many studies have linked ultraprocessed foods to obesity, obesity-related cancers and poor mental health. We need better food, not more medication

As of 2021, the U.S. obesity rate among adults over the age of 20 was 41.9%.1 Unfortunately, people have been indoctrinated into thinking that “magic pills” are the answer, opposed to taking a long, hard look at your lifestyle, diet and eating habits.

Wegovy (semaglutide), given as a weekly self-injection, has become so popular that, in early May 2023, Novo Nordisk announced it would cut the supply of starter doses for the U.S. market to “safeguard continuity of care” for existing patients.2 As reported by CNBC:3

“Novo Nordisk reported forecast-beating first-quarter sales Thursday following a spike in demand for its blockbuster weight-loss drug … [Chief financial officer Karsten Munk] Knudsen said the company was ‘ramping up supply every day,’ and currently had two contract manufacturers working to boost output, with a third expected to come online in the second half of 2023.

He added that there were further plans to increase production in the coming years. ‘This is also a reflection of a very big market and a very big unmet need for safe and efficacious medication, and that’s where Wegovy comes in, being very efficacious and safe for patients [with obesity],’ he said.”

What You Need to Know About Wegovy

Wegovy was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2021 for “chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight with at least one weight-related condition (such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol).”4

The drug is indicated for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related ailment, or in patients with a BMI of 30 or greater.

According to the FDA, the active ingredient in Wegovy, semaglutide, works by “mimicking a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) that targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite and food intake.”5

GLP-1, which semaglutide mimicks, also lowers blood sugar and slows the passage of food through your gut.6 Gastrointestinal side effects are so common, the dose must be gradually increased, from 0.25 milligrams to 2.4 mg over the course of 16 to 20 weeks.

In all, safety and efficacy have been studied in four 68-week trials involving a total of 2,600 patients who got the drug and 1,500 who got a placebo. In the largest placebo-controlled trial, nondiabetic patients who received Wegovy lost an average of 12.4% of their body weight compared to the placebo group.

In another trial, which enrolled adults with Type 2 diabetes, the average weight loss was 6.2% of their initial bodyweight, so clearly, diabetes can have a marked impact on the drug’s effectiveness.

Side Effects and Warnings

As for side effects, the most common ones cited by the FDA are:7

Severe nausea and vomiting Diarrhea or constipation
Abdominal pain and distension Indigestion, belching and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Headache Fatigue
Dizziness Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in patients with Type 2 diabetes
Gastroenteritis (intestinal infection) and flatulence

Wegovy also comes with warnings for:8

Thyroid parafollicular cell (C-cell) tumors — For this reason, the drug should not be used by those with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid carcinoma or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 (MEN 2)
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) — The drug has not been studied in people with preexisting pancreatitis or a history of pancreatitis
Gallbladder problems, including gallstones
Low blood sugar
Acute kidney injury
Diabetic retinopathy (damage to your eye’s retina)
Increased heart rate
Suicidal thinking and behavior

Perhaps most importantly, to maintain your weight loss, you must keep taking Wegovy indefinitely. If you stop taking it, the pounds you’ve shed will come back. This explains why Novo Nordisk felt impelled to limit the availability of the drug for new patients, as they need to make sure those who are already on it can stay on it.

A Dangerous Nonsolution

According to Novo Nordisk, “hundreds of thousands” of Americans are already on the drug,9 but considering all the side effects, the warnings, and the fact that you have to take the drug for the rest of your life, how can anyone think that this is the answer to our obesity problem? So many things can go wrong here.

The crux of the problem is that this drug does nothing to address the root cause of the obesity. You’re merely fiddling with brain chemistry to artificially suppress appetite, potentially becoming suicidal in the process.

Meanwhile, research has shown that processed foods affect your brain in detrimental ways, resulting in anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.10 So, basically, many are eating processed junk that dysregulates their brain, and then taking a drug that merely dysregulates their brain even further.

Now, when taking Wegovy, you’re supposed to follow a diet plan that stresses fresh whole foods and healthy fats.11 Processed foods are supposed to be strictly limited. But how many patients actually follow that plan? If they did, they probably wouldn’t need the drug!

The obvious answer here is to simply ditch processed foods and give your brain and body the nutrition that it needs for optimal function and regulation. If you’re taking Wegovy and still eat processed foods, guess what? You’re basically doubling up on your risk of chronic diseases like cancer and mental problems. To me, that’s not a solution. It’s deepening a problem that, for most people, can be resolved through diet and lifestyle changes alone.

Ultraprocessed Diet Associated With Poor Mental Health

Taking a closer look at how processed foods affect mental health, here’s an excerpt from The New York Times:12

“Roughly 60% of the calories in the average American diet13 come from highly processed foods. We’ve known for decades that eating such packaged products — like some breakfast cereals, snack bars, frozen meals and virtually all packaged sweets, among many other things — is linked to unwelcome health outcomes, like an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and even cancer.

But more recent studies point to another major downside … They appear to have a significant impact on our minds, too. Research from the past 10 or so years has shown that the more ultraprocessed foods [UPF] a person eats, the higher the chances that they feel depressed and anxious …

In one 2022 study14 of over 10,000 adults in the United States, the more UPFs participants ate, the more likely they were to report mild depression or feelings of anxiety. ‘There was a significant increase in mentally unhealthy days for those eating 60% or more of their calories from UPFs,’ Dr. Hecht, the study’s author, said …

New research has also found a connection between high UPF consumption and cognitive decline. A 2022 study15 that followed nearly 11,000 Brazilian adults over a decade found a correlation between eating ultraprocessed foods and worse cognitive function (the ability to learn, remember, reason and solve problems).

‘While we have a natural decline in these abilities with age, we saw that this decline accelerated by 28% in people who consume more than 20% of their calories from UPFs,’ said Natalia Gomes Goncalves, a professor at the University of São Paulo Medical School and the lead author of the study.”

While details are still sketchy, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the reason ultraprocessed foods have such a detrimental impact on mental and physical health is because they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, which has loads of unfiltered starch in addition to the sugars and, of course, seed oils. Both of these factors tend to increase serotonin in the gut, which increases inflammation and cortisol levels that impair mental health.

Additionally, chemical additives in ultraprocessed foods also have a negative impact on your gut microbiome. Poor gut microbiota, in turn, promotes chronic inflammation, which can trigger or worsen a host of ailments, including obesity and depression. Considering the importance of a healthy gut, doesn’t it seem beyond irrational to take a drug that causes severe gastrointestinal problems?

Ultraprocessed Foods Cause Obesity and Cancer

If we, as a society, are ever going to level out or diminish obesity and obesity-related cancer rates, we must address the elephant in the room, which is ultraprocessed foods. We cannot medicate ourselves out of these problems, especially considering that drugs like Wegovy come with a warning of thyroid cancer and must be taken for life or else the weight comes back.

Many studies have linked ultraprocessed foods to obesity and obesity-related cancers. One of the most recent, published in May 2023, analyzed “the association of food deserts and food swamps with obesity-related cancer mortality in the U.S.” As noted in this study:16

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