Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Ozempic will give way to another quick-fix diet drug, then another and another, Northeastern expert predicts

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It may be impossible to avoid the current hype around Ozempic, a new weight-loss promoting drug that’s so ubiquitous it ended up mentioned in Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar monologue.

Rachel Rodgers, associate professor of applied psychology at Northeastern, predicts the medication will fall from favor as a weight loss tool—and likely will be replaced by another “quick fix” that wreaks havoc with people’s body image and, possibly, their bodies.

“There have been weight loss drugs since the 1930s,” Rodgers says. “They inevitably are shown to have dangerous side effects. They are typically popular for a short term and then are revealed to be dangerous and are replaced with something else.”

An authority on body image and disordered eating, Rodgers says she is not an expert on the biological underpinnings of Ozempic, an injectable medication developed to treat Type 2 diabetes that has been repurposed as a weight loss drug adopted by celebrities and some on social media.

Rachel Rodgers associate professor, department of applied psychology, poses for a portrait. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The active ingredient in Ozempic, semaglutide, works by inducing a feeling of fullness in users, which cuts down on their appetite.

As a critic of the diet industry who has seen other weight loss come and go, she says one constant is the need to shake things up with new products.

“The weight loss industry loves to make money out of people feeling insecure regarding the way they look,” she says. “Novelty is an important part of that because it drives greater profits. You need to introduce novelty into the market to keep it going.”

The drug is rumored to be so popular among celebrities that comedian Jimmy Kimmel opened his monologue on Oscar night with the quip, “When I look around at this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”

It’s not surprising that a number of celebrities are rumored to be taking Ozempic to drop pounds, Rodgers says, adding there is a synergy between the diet and entertainment industries.

“The entertainment industry, the weight loss industry, the fitness industry, the food industry—all these things work together. They’re all on message about how people should be pursuing unrealistic appearance ideals; that weight is controllable to an extent that we know it’s not; and that purchasing products and services will help people to achieve this appearance,” she says.

Tech mogul Elon Musk is one of the highest profile people to have admitted to taking Wegovy, which is the same pharmaceutical product, semaglutide, as Ozempic, but in a slightly higher dose specifically prescribed for weight loss.

Among users of Twitter and TikTok, social media is rife with the hashtag #Ozempic.

There are TikTok 30-day Ozempic weight loss vacation challenges, Ozempic chicken soup recipes and even accounts dedicated to the vivid dreams some users say are caused by the medication that has to be injected once a week.

The emphasis on weight loss can cause poor body image, which is often associated with depression and loss of self-esteem, particularly in teenagers and young adults, Rodgers says.

She says it’s no wonder people gravitate toward Ozempic, when social media users tout the appeal of immediate gratification with little effort.

“People like things that are a quick fix,” Rodgers says. “This drug is marketed as something that would not require a grueling exercise regime. It is something that people would see as being easy.”

In fact, Ozempic has been shown in clinical trials to produce modest weight loss in conjunction with lifestyle changes, Rodgers says.

While high blood sugar levels provoke hunger and food cravings, Ozempic works to keep blood sugar levels low, according to the Ozempic website

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