Celebrities Using Diabetes Drugs for Weight Loss?

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) had a great article last week (Oct 12) that asked the question, “How a Diabetes Drug Became the Talk of Hollywood, Tech and the Hamptons” – and covered the issue of how Ozempic and other injections meant to treat chronic medical conditions are in high demand among elites looking to lose a little weight.

The original article is HERE

 Some people are calling it the “Hollywood Drug” – but I think they should call it the “Lazy Dipshit Drug” because you can actually get the same benefits (and avoid the long list of scary side effects) from a natural approach that balances the entire gut microbiome (so you lose fat while also maintaining muscle and improving your mood and motivation at the same time).

Here are some edited notes from the article:

  • Ozempic, which is taken by injection in the thigh, stomach or arm, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 to help lower blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. 
  • One Ozempic injection pen typically lasts about a month and costs about $900 before insurance, though coverage can be hard to come by. 
  • The brand is not approved by the FDA for weight loss. 
  • But recently, Ozempic and other drugs of its kind have become the subject of conversations about weight loss, thinness and so-called biohacking in Hollywood, the tech industry and beyond.
  • Ozempic, made by Novo Nordisk A/S, is one of several brand-name drugs on the market containing an antidiabetic ingredient called semaglutide. 
  • Semaglutide stimulates insulin production and also targets areas of the brain that regulate appetite.
  • The FDA has approved semaglutide for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy, which Novo Nordisk sells at a higher price than its cousin Ozempic.
  • Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO who has more than 100 million followers on Twitter, tweeted this month that he was taking Wegovy in combination with fasting to lose weight.
  • In late September, Andy Cohen, the Bravo host and “Real Housewives” executive producer, tweeted: “Everyone is suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter. What happens when they stop taking #Ozempic ?????” 
  • Ozempic and Wegovy belong to a new class of drugs, called GLP-1s, that some studies indicate may significantly reduce weight when combined with other lifestyle changes—at least in certain people.
  • Ozempic’s embrace among relatively healthy people isn’t supported by scientific evidence. 
  • Wegovy itself isn’t approved to treat all those seeking weight loss. The drug’s 2021 weight-loss approval was for people who are obese or overweight with a coexisting condition related to weight, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. It is priced at $1,350 for a month’s supply, which includes four injection pens. (Novo Nordisk has also introduced a once-a-day semaglutide pill called Rybelsus. A 30-day supply, without insurance coverage, costs $850.) 
  • Cost might be one reason people seeking to lose weight are flocking to Ozempic, rather than Wegovy. Supplies might be another. Wegovy was on the market for barely six months before Novo Nordisk announced it was in short supply, in December 2021. 
  • Under the terms of their approvals, neither drug should be taken for casual weight loss.
  • Though Ozempic and Wegovy contain the same active ingredient, Novo Nordisk says they are not interchangeable due to differences in dosage amounts and escalation schedules for the drugs. Because the drugs are intended for people with chronic conditions, they are not meant to be used as short-term treatments and Novo Nordisk has specifically stated that they “don’t promote or suggest or encourage any off-label usage at all,” further noting that “we’re not looking at weight loss for cosmetic purposes or episodic weight loss for people who don’t fit those criteria from the FDA-approved label indications.” 
  • Doctors are generally able to prescribe medications off-label as they see fit, but it is important to note that the FDA approval (or clearance) of a medical product for one intended use does not assure its safety and effectiveness for other uses.
  • Ozempic and Wegovy are not the only new GLP-1s used off-label—some doctors say Mounjaro (from Eli Lilly), a different formula approved by the FDA in May for diabetes treatment, is also being prescribed for weight loss.
  • Some patients have developed pancreatitis while taking Wegovy or Mounjaro and had to come off the medications. Other side effects which are also listed on the labels for these drugs, include gastrointestinal issues such as gallbladder disease and nausea. Those with a family history of thyroid cancer are advised against taking the drug. 
  • While Ozempic’s website clearly states that it is “not a weight-loss drug” but may help those who take it lose weight, third-party companies are using its name to advertise virtual-weight loss programs and discounted prescriptions. People are turning to social media for tips about how to get the drug.
  • Some comments from people interviewed for the article:
    • “After she stopped taking Ozempic, she regained much of the weight she had lost”
    • “When you stop taking it, you lose that feeling of fullness, that benefit of not being as hungry” 
    • “And now your hunger signals and cues can become a lot stronger”

As I’ve written about in Mental Fitness, we can harness our microbiome to amplify the signals associated with better mood (neurotransmitters), weight loss (glucose/insulin, GLP-1, thyroid), and even beauty (the skin microbiome and the Gut-Skin-Axis).

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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