What the Ozempic Obsession Misses About Food and Health
IIn a slimming-obsessed country, Ozempic is the latest in a long line of weight-loss wonders. Word spread quickly after it was approved in 2017 to help control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and it also leads to weight loss; fast forward to 2023, and #Ozempic has more than 300 million views on TikTok. Celebrities and influencers quickly jumped on the Ozempic bandwagon, and so far, the drug has gained mainstream appeal. So much so that people with type 2 diabetes have difficulty getting it due to the high demand for it. According to Komodo Health, more than 5 million prescriptions will be written in 2022 for Ozempic or a similar drug, Mounjaro.
What we've learned (or, rather, confirmed) from the latest wave of diet pills is that our society continues to prioritize thinness over actual health. When we think of our weight and waistline as the north stars of our health, we forget that we are increasingly deficient in some of the key nutrients that protect us from disease. Ninety-five percent of the U.S. population does not meet the recommended daily intake of fiber. Another 75 percent don't get enough magnesium. Globally, 1.1 billion people are deficient in zinc (with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer's disease) due to insufficient dietary intake.
There is also the fact that, like all medicines, Ozempic may have side effects. According to the drug's website, the most common are: “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach (abdominal) pain, and constipation.” Also mentions “possible thyroid tumors, including cancer.” An unmentioned but frequently reported side effect Known as “Ozempic Face”. Also, in order to maintain your weight loss, you must use Ozempic indefinitely – unless you use Ozempic to quickly develop healthier eating, exercise, sleep, etc. habits.
Read more: 9 health trends to ditch in 2023
But let's be clear: Ozempic is a game changer for many. Some people with diabetes need Ozempic. For some people, genetics play a bigger role in determining their body shape than diet and lifestyle. Some people think weight loss is a health issue and they try everything to no avail. Whether to take this drug is a medical decision.
But not all users. The question we need to add to the discussion is: How can we actually improve health and chronic disease? In those conversations at the doctor's office about Ozempic (or Wegovy, the same drug used to treat obesity), are doctors also asking: What will you eat while taking this drug? Do you exercise every day? how did you sleep What is your stress level? These conversations need to be part of every prescription. Because one drug is not the answer to America's weight epidemic.
At the same time, we need to overcome the cliché “eat less, exercise more”. We've seen how much that information actually helps people get healthier. That's because a simple message is missing in our debates about food, which is that there is far more to food than calories that cause weight gain.
More from TIME
Even when we look at food purely in terms of its biological impact (forget for a moment, if you will, its association with family, culture, adventure, and pleasure), we're only telling a small part of a story when we focus on calories. Food provides essential vitamins and minerals. It gives us amino acids to build our muscles, lipids to make hormones, and fuel our brains. In essence, the food choices we make affect every aspect of our health and well-being.
Let's take an example: the classic spinach omelet. Eggs contain some protein and fat. Proteins break down to form amino acids, which the body uses like Lego bricks to make structural proteins, enzymes, hormones, and even neurotransmitters. Egg yolks are also one of the best sources of choline (of which 90 percent don't get enough), a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory formation. The spinach in your omelet is rich in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to your stool as food passes through your digestive system, helping to prevent constipation; and some soluble fiber, which nourishes good gut bacteria and helps curb inflammation in your gut, which in turn suppresses your brain inflammation. Fiber also plays an important role in detoxification, improving blood lipids and regulating blood sugar. Spinach will also provide folate (a B vitamin that helps form DNA, RNA, and red blood cells), vitamin C (an antioxidant necessary for the growth and repair of all body tissues) and carotenoids, a class of phytonutrients already Proven to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. While this example doesn't paint the full picture, it shows that food and its nutrients are far more complex than we give them credit for.
The same principle applies to exercise. Exercising does a lot more than burn calories: Aerobic exercise activates your immune system, making you less susceptible to viral illnesses. It strengthens your heart and improves blood flow. It improves your mood, helps you sleep better at night, and enlarges the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory. The benefits of strength training are equally impressive: In a recent meta-analysis of data from 1.5 million study participants, strength training activity was associated with a nearly 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, lung cancer, and all diseases. cause death.
Science and medicine have moved beyond the “calories in = calories out” algorithm – we are not machines. Still, our metabolic system is intricate and the latest research in nutritional science is only scratching the surface. As we learn about what's hidden behind the scenes, let's not forget the basics our parents taught us: eat a variety of food on your plate to help you grow healthy and stay strong. Move often to feel good, think clearly and sleep soundly. Everything else — even if it has 300 million views on TikTok — is just noise.
More must-reads from TIME