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Ozempic, a weight-loss drug, makes you hate food. Elon Musk seems impressed by it

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulNov 10, 2022 | 17:23

Ozempic, a weight-loss drug, makes you hate food. Elon Musk seems impressed by it

Cover illustration by Geetanjali Singh

The antidiabetic medication Ozempic, AKA Semaglutide, hailed as the 'wonder drug' for weight loss has risen in fame over social media and among Hollywood stars. Elon Musk has praised it too. But what Semaglutide actually does to your body is devastating, not just dangerous.

Originally touted as medication for the treatment of Type-2 diabetes and long-term weight management, Semaglutide gained traction in the medical community for its ability to lower blood sugar, or rein in levels of glycated haemoglobin.

Let us break it down for you:

GLP-1 has indeed revolutionised the management of Type-2 diabetes,

BUT the very same hormone has also been shown to slow down the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine.

What this means: So, on GLP-1, you feel full faster. Much faster.

With this unforeseen side-effect, researchers at the University of Leeds and Novo Nordisk (the company that produces Semaglutide) conjectured that it can also be used for the treatment of obesity.

  • A randomised controlled trial found that a once-weekly injection of 2.4 mg of the drug resulted in an average change of −14.9% body weight at 68 weeks compared to −2.4% for the placebo.
“When you change your body’s insulin reaction, you crave different food. That’s what’s happening.”
- Isabelle Kenyon, Founder and CEO of Calibrate, a telehealth weight loss startup that advocates Semaglutide, in an interview with The Guardian

In simple words: It’s almost as if it is hacking into your body's hormonal mainframe and fiddling around with the food hormones until certain food cravings basically vanish.

GLP-1 treatment manifests itself at a physiological level, more than a mechanical level. And so, doctors are increasingly prescribing the drug off-label, purely for its effect in helping people lose weight.

Semaglutide is sold under the brand names Wegovy and Ozempic among others.

  • The injectable version (Ozempic) was approved solely as an antidiabetic in the United States in 2017.
  • In 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved semaglutide injection sold under the brand name Wegovy for long-term weight management in adults.
  • In 2020, it was the 129th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with almost 5 million active prescriptions.
Total Prescriptions and Patients Per Year (2013 - 2020). Credits: ClinCalc Drug Usage Statistics, United States

Side-effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and constipation. In people with heart problems, it can cause damage to the retina of the eye (retinopathy). 

Among the less common side-effects are hair loss, heartburn and swelling at the site of injection. Some studies have even  linked Semaglutide to an increased risk for thyroid cancers, as well as pancreatitis and gallstones.

But among the long list of minor and severe side effects, the one that is taken for granted the most is the one that gives the drug its legitimacy: Its uncanny ability to destroy appetites altogether. What it means is that you simply don't feel like eating. Or, if you see junk food, you feel like throwing up. 

Online communities across the internet are overflowing with stories of how the drug has made food entirely unpalatable and in some extreme cases, even incites an absolute hatred for food.  

However, on the very same internet forums, the drug’s defenders would argue that such risks are acceptable, given the wide range of dangers associated with obesity: heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, cancer, osteoarthritis and, of course, Type-2 diabetes.

Enter Musk: The new Twitter Big Boss, Elon Musk, has proved to be a (un)surprisingly vocal advocate of the drug:

The Neuralink co-founder seemed to suggest that Semaglutide would be a suitable alternative for the time being, as he claimed his Neuralink neural implant technology would soon be able to tackle the problem of morbid obesity as well, with experts backing his claims.

For those that use the drug, it is probably a choice between the devil and the deep sea. Be it out of medical compulsion or the ever-prevalent cultural stigmas surrounding the aesthetics of obesity (rather than the actual health risks it poses), it seems the prospects of weight loss entirely eclipse the possible threats to their well-being (as well as the bliss of biting down into a burger).

Last updated: November 10, 2022 | 17:25
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