By Gina Cousineau
The obsession with weight loss is nothing new, but with the recently developed class of medications touted to make “weight loss” easier than ever before, as promised last month, I have additional information I want to provide to my readers.
While we will discuss specifics about the drugs, first some food for thought.
I work with individuals to help them achieve their No. 1 goal, which is usually “weight loss.” I do this through science and evidence-based nutrition education, as well as teaching cooking basics. I often shift mindsets that elevate “health” as the primary driver for my clients over time.
For this, I am grateful. That doesn’t mean at times that clients don’t fall back into unhealthful habits, but in the end, they always desire to “come home” to all I have taught them, because they have experienced the benefits and joys of a healthy eating pattern.
We all have heard of the strengths of the new injectable medications, which include lowering blood pressure and blood lipids, improving fatty liver disease, reducing risk of heart and kidney disease, and delaying diabetes complications.
While the exact mechanisms are still being researched, these benefits likely come from the weight loss, which ultimately leads to blood sugar control.
One class of injectables is the semaglutide. These medications are glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA), which help to reduce appetite, calorie intake and hunger, while increasing satiety.
They have minimal side effects and promise weight-loss benefits of 6-12%.
The other class of injectables is tirzepatide, a GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) and GLP-1RA combo. It was designed for patients with type 2 diabetes. It is often used “off label” for weight loss, with up to 25% reduction with the highest dosage.
Because those with type 2 diabetes have double the risk of cardiovascular disease, these medications can literally save lives.
So what exactly are the issues with these medications? Well, there are many. Monthly costs range from $900 to $1,400, with coupons providing initial cost reductions that are short-lived.
Given the medication likely needs to be taken long-term to prevent weight regain, the cost can be prohibitive for many. That being said, we have no idea at this point about the potential long-term side effects of these drugs.
Too many medical providers are handing out these drugs like candy, without proper counseling to their patients. The next line of defense comes from the pharmacists, who are happy to provide guidance to patients when they are prescribed these new drugs, but many patients refuse the consultation, and others don’t take the advice given.
We understand obesity is a complex condition; otherwise, more than 40% of humans would not be affected by it.
The connection of food addiction and obesity is still not understood well, but until then, effective management of one’s weight will come down to lifestyle shifts including a healthy eating pattern, moderate exercise, and potentially utilizing behavior modification therapies, along with these medications.
Some want to include weight-loss surgery in the mix, but I don’t recommend this route because of concerning outcomes I have seen.
All this being said, given that those who are making the decision to take these medications are usually desperate to lose the weight and improve their health, we must then take seriously the need to make ourselves aware of the multifold responsibility that comes from what seems to be an easy fix.
Gina Cousineau, aka Mama G, is your local nutrition expert, chef, and fitness professional, with her BS in Nutrition and MS in functional and integrative nutrition. She uses a food-as-medicine approach for weight loss to health gain, and everything in between. Follow her on social media @mamagslifestyle, and check out her website mamagslifestyle.com to learn more about her programs and freebies offered throughout the year.