Understanding the “Ozempic Baby” Phenomenon

In the realm of weight loss medications, few have captured attention quite like Ozempic. Promising not just significant weight loss but also sustainable results, Ozempic and other GLP-1 drugs have garnered a reputation for effectiveness. However, beyond their intended purpose, a curious trend has emerged — the rise of what some term “Ozempic babies.”

This phenomenon, where women report getting pregnant while on Ozempic, has sparked intrigue and concern alike. The internet is rife with women sharing their stories, and every platform — from Reddit to TikTok to mainstream news channels and heavyweights like The Washington Post — is buzzing.

So, while the drug hasn’t been approved for fertility enhancement, the correlation between weight loss and fertility, coupled with Ozempic’s impact on birth control, sheds light on this unexpected occurrence. Let’s take a look at the two main reasons this is happening and why fertility experts advise against getting pregnant while taking Ozempic.

Weight loss can lead to increased fertility

Last week, The Bump published an article by Associate Editor Wyndi Kappes that pointed out two possible reasons that taking Ozempic can lead to an unexpected pregnancy. Kappes interviewed Karen Wheeler, M.D., FACOG, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates, who highlighted the link between weight loss and enhanced fertility. Dr. Wheeler said:

We know that weight loss can increase the rate of ovulation in women with irregular periods… Women who lose weight with Ozempic who were not previously ovulating may start to ovulate and if not using effective contraception, may get pregnant while on Ozempic.

Also, lower BMI resulting from weight loss can improve pregnancy rates, especially in assisted reproductive technology, according to Dr. Wheeler.

Ozempic’s impact on birth control

The second reason that women may be getting pregnant on Ozempic has to do with the drug’s effect on birth control. Dr. Wheeler pointed out that while no direct studies correlate Ozempic with decreased birth control effectiveness, the drug’s influence on gastric processes could affect pill absorption. This is especially true if Ozempic is causing such side effects as nausea and vomiting.

Lauren Bishop, M.D., ob-gyn, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Fertility Center, also pointed out that weight loss medications, in general, may decrease the efficacy of oral contraceptive pills. She said:

These medications can slow how the stomach is processing its contents, thus altering how birth control pills are absorbed and processed.

Why getting pregnant on Ozempic isn’t recommended

Despite the potential fertility benefits, caution is warranted. Drs. Wheeler and Bishop emphasize the lack of studies on Ozempic’s safety during pregnancy. Animal studies hint at adverse fetal outcomes, indicating a potential risk for human pregnancies. Dr. Wheeler explained:

Pregnant rats who were given Ozempic had increased rates of fetal death, structural abnormalities and growth alterations… It can take up to 6 weeks for Ozempic or similar medications to be gone from the body, so someone who is planning to conceive should stop Ozempic at least 2 months prior to conception.

In light of these findings, women on Ozempic are advised to take extra precautions regarding birth control. Barrier methods or long-acting reversible contraception are recommended until more is understood about the drug’s interaction with contraceptives and its effects on pregnancy.

Dr. Wheeler also underscored the importance of seeking professional guidance when navigating fertility and weight loss. “If you are overweight or obese and trying to conceive, please speak with your ob-gyn or fertility specialist about the pros and cons of different weight loss therapies,” she said.

The bottom line

While Ozempic (and similar GLP-1 drugs) may offer weight loss benefits, its role in conception remains uncertain and potentially risky. Until more studies emerge, taking Ozempic and pregnancy shouldn’t coincide. Women are encouraged to explore alternative weight-loss therapies and consult with healthcare providers to make informed decisions.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ozempic Babies: Experts Weigh in on the Drug’s Effect on Fertility,” The Bump, 4/10/24
Image by Hollie Santos on Unsplash

The Latest on the GLP-1 Weight Loss Medications

We continue looking at the latest headlines in the fascinating and controversial world of GLP-1 weight loss drugs. A lot has been going on in the past few weeks.


Eli Lilly’s GLP-1 weight loss drugs, Zepbound and Mounjaro, are experiencing a supply shortage, similar to competitor Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy. Due to this shortage, Eli Lilly is considering releasing vials of their treatments for consumers capable of self-administering the drug. The #ReleaseTheVials campaign on social media is urging the pharmaceutical company to take this approach for quicker and easier consumer access.

Discussing this issue with Yahoo Finance, “On The Pen Live” Host Dave Knapp said:

“Even though […] you’ve seen them [Eli Lilly] announce major investments in the United States in manufacturing […] they just can’t keep up with 100,000 prescriptions a week. You saw Eli Lilly and Zepbound specifically eclipse Wegovy…

You saw Zepbound eclipse Wegovy for the first time in new prescriptions just a week ago. And there’s just no way they can keep up with that when you consider the complexity of the pens and the manufacturing of these very, very difficult — [Eli Lilly CEO] Dave Rick’s own words — some of the most complex things to manufacture in the country.”

What can curb weight loss on semaglutide?

In another development, a retrospective study coming from the Mayo Clinic investigated the impact of prior use of anti-obesity medications on weight loss outcomes with semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist, in 305 U.S. patients with overweight or obesity. Among these, 231 were treatment-naive with semaglutide, while 74 had prior exposure to other anti-obesity drugs.

Results showed that treatment-naive patients experienced greater weight loss with semaglutide compared to those with prior exposure to anti-obesity medications. Specifically, at 12 months, the treatment-naive group lost more weight (14.3% vs. 10.6%) and had higher proportions achieving ≥ 15% and ≥ 20% weight loss.

The study suggests that “semaglutide results in more weight loss if patients with overweight or obesity have not previously been treated with anti-obesity medications.” It was published online in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Costco gets into the GLP-1 weight loss drugs market

Costco is teaming up with Sesame, an online telemedicine platform, to provide exclusive discounts on prescriptions for GLP-1 weight loss drugs to eligible members. Through Sesame’s marketplace, members can access Costco’s weight loss program for $179, which includes three months of clinical consultations, personalized clinician selection, live video consultations, messaging with clinicians, nutritional guidance, and recommendations.

Patients will be directed to appropriate treatment programs, potentially including medications like Ozempic or Wegovy, based on their medical history and weight loss needs. However, GLP-1s can be expensive without insurance, ranging from $950 to $1,600 per month.

This move by Costco follows similar initiatives by competitors like Amazon and Weight Watchers, indicating a trend toward medically supervised weight loss services. Sesame co-founder and CEO David Goldhill said in the press release:

“Sesame’s unique model allows us not only to make high-quality specialty care like weight loss much more accessible and affordable, but also to empower clinicians to create care plans that are specific to — and appropriate for — each individual patient.”

From “Ozempic face” to “Ozempic baby”

The last item on our news roundup: Women taking weight loss medications such as Ozempic and Mounjaro are experiencing unintended pregnancies, despite using birth control or facing fertility issues. Online platforms like Facebook, Reddit and TikTok have become forums for these women to share their unexpected pregnancy experiences, often dubbed “Ozempic babies” or “Mounjaro babies.”

Reproductive and obesity medicine experts acknowledge this trend, attributing it to weight loss correcting hormonal imbalances and potentially reducing the efficacy of birth control. However, experts strongly caution against using weight loss drugs to conceive, as animal studies suggest these medications may cause miscarriage and birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

While some argue these medications might increase fertility, experts emphasize the importance of discontinuing them at least two months before attempting pregnancy due to potential risks. Dr. Allison Rodgers, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, said:

“It’s true that, from a scientific perspective, these medications may make it easier for people to get pregnant… But people need to be careful because there could be dangerous consequences if taken while pregnant given the drugs can linger in your system.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Weight-loss drug shortage result of ‘unprecedented demand’,” Yahoo Finance, 04/08/24
Source: “Prior Anti-Obesity Drug Use Curbs Weight Loss on Semaglutide,” Medscape, 04/09/24
Source: “Costco will offer prescriptions for GLP-1 weight loss drugs to eligible members,” Salon, 04/08/24
Source: “’Ozempic babies’ are surprising women taking weight loss drugs. Doctors think they know why.,” USA Today, 03/21/24
Image by Total Shape on Unsplash

Childhood Obesity Linked to Increased Risk of Multiple Sclerosis, Swedish Study Finds

A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has unveiled a concerning link between childhood obesity and the heightened risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life. The findings, slated to be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in May in Venice, Italy, indicate that obese children may face more than double the risk of developing MS compared to their non-obese counterparts.

Briefly on MS

MS is a chronic condition that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Its symptoms vary widely and can include vision problems and difficulties with movement, sensation and balance. While the exact cause of MS remains unclear, researchers have long sought to understand the various factors contributing to its development.

How the study was conducted

The study’s foundation lies in the analysis of data from the Swedish Childhood Obesity Treatment Register, which contains extensive information on children undergoing treatment for obesity. Researchers examined records spanning from 1995 to 2020, comparing data from over 21,600 children with obesity to that of more than 100,000 children without obesity.

The study’s results

The results were striking. While the overall likelihood of any one child developing MS remains low, the study revealed that children who were obese faced more than double the odds of developing MS later in life compared to their non-obese peers. Specifically, the rate of newly diagnosed MS cases among obese individuals reached 0.13%, compared to 0.06% among non-obese children.

Professor Claude Marcus, who led the study, commented:

There are several studies showing that MS has increased over several decades and obesity is believed to be one major driver for this increase… Thanks to our prospective study design, we can confirm this theory.

The study also highlighted a gender discrepancy in MS incidence, with two-thirds of cases occurring in females, aligning with the general observation of a higher prevalence of MS among women compared to men. Interestingly, regardless of weight history, MS was diagnosed at a similar average age of around 23 years old.

The potential cause

Emilia Hagman, an associate professor, and Dr. Marcus pointed to chronic inflammation associated with obesity as a potential mechanism driving this heightened risk. Obesity triggers a state of low-grade inflammation in the body, which, over time, can contribute to the development of various diseases, including MS.

The research team wrote,

Paediatric obesity is associated with several autoimmune diseases and the leading hypothesis is that the persistent low-grade inflammatory state, typically observed in obesity, is mediating the association.

The bottom line

Despite the alarming findings, Marcus and his team emphasized that the absolute risk of any one child with obesity developing MS remains relatively low. Still, while acknowledging the study’s limitations, including its observational nature and relatively short follow-up period, the researchers underscored the importance of recognizing the long-term health implications of childhood obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obese children twice as likely to develop multiple sclerosis, study suggests,” The Guardian, 3/28/24
Source: “Childhood obesity linked to higher risk for multiple sclerosis later,” Yahoo News, 3/29/24
Image by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Oprah on Weight Stigma and Displacement Intervention

For decades, Oprah Winfrey has been an icon of empowerment and resilience, but behind her public persona lay a battle with weight stigma that was both personal and deeply pervasive. In a March 18 ABC special titled “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” Oprah opened up about the relentless scrutiny she faced regarding her weight over the years and delivered a poignant message of self-acceptance and compassion for others, also underscoring the importance of displacement intervention.

Decades-long body shaming took its toll

Reflecting on the relentless criticism she endured, Oprah recounted instances where her appearance was dissected and ridiculed by the media. From disparaging headlines to hurtful comments, she bore the brunt of a societal obsession with body image that often equates worth with weight.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me. For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” Oprah candidly expressed during the special.

She vividly recalled the hurtful labels thrown her way, including being described as “bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy” on the cover of TV Guide in 1990. These experiences were not just personal slights but emblematic of a broader culture that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and unrealistic beauty standards.

Let’s end the weight stigma, Oprah said

But Oprah’s message wasn’t just about her own struggles; it was a call to action against the pervasive culture of body shaming. She urged an end to the stigma and judgment surrounding weight, emphasizing the need for compassion and understanding in discussions about health and wellness.

Oprah said:

In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget. And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day I started to gain it back.

A holistic approach beyond the meds

Winfrey’s journey toward self-acceptance didn’t end with mere acknowledgment of the problem; she actively sought solutions and found solace in weight-loss medication, alongside a balanced approach to fitness and nutrition. By sharing her experiences with GLP-1 prescription medications like Ozempic, Mounjaro, Victoza, and Wegovy, she aimed to destigmatize their use and provide hope to those struggling with weight management.

Oprah’s decision to combine medication with healthy lifestyle choices, including hiking, exercise, and mindful eating, underscores the complexity of addressing weight-related issues. It’s a holistic approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of health and well-being, rejecting simplistic narratives that prioritize appearance over overall wellness.

Throughout the special, Winfrey emphasized that obesity is not a character flaw but a complex medical condition deserving of empathy and support. Oprah said: “The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it’s in the brain.” What is the disease in the brain? Hijacking of the reward system? Displacement mechanism going rogue? All good questions.

Dr. Pretlow weighed in:

Displacement intervention (problem solving, rechanneling excess brain energy), with medications as an assist, may be the best approach for obesity. Also, displacement intervention may be a way to get off the medications, which otherwise would need to be taken for life.

“Evidence-based interventions”

Oprah seems to agree. Joined by medical experts, she challenged misconceptions about weight loss and highlighted the importance of evidence-based interventions in tackling obesity. Personally, she uses the medication in combination with “hiking 3 to 5 miles a day,” running, weight resistance training, and eating a “healthy diet.”

Dr. W. Scott Butsch and Dr. Amanda Velazquez, medical professionals specializing in obesity medicine, lent their expertise to the conversation, debunking myths and advocating for a more nuanced understanding of weight-related issues. They emphasized that obesity is not simply a matter of willpower but a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

In a world where body image is often weaponized against individuals, Oprah’s courage in confronting her own demons and advocating for change is both empowering and inspiring. Her journey also throws light on how displacement activities can work in tandem (or not) with weight loss medications to bring positive outcomes.

There’s a study for that!

The ability to rechannel displacement into less harmless activities rather than succumbing to urges is behind the behavior modification app, BrainWeighve, currently ramping up for a trial through the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The trial focuses on weight loss for obese teens using “a self-directed, physician-supervised program withdrawing from one problem food at a time.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Oprah Winfrey says she has released the shame of being ‘ridiculed’ for her weight for 25 years,” ABC News, March 19, 2024
Source: “Oprah Winfrey reveals she starved herself ‘for nearly five months’ in ABC weight loss special,” USA TODAY, March 18, 2024
Image by Nik on Unsplash

Shame, Blame, and Oprah’s Special

 In the ongoing battle against obesity, a new front has emerged in the form of GLP-1 weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Zepbound. These medications, heralded for their potential to revolutionize weight management, have garnered immense popularity, with projections suggesting that by 2030, roughly 10% of the U.S. population will be relying on them, driving the category’s sales to surpass a staggering $100 billion.

The recent endorsement from Oprah Winfrey during an ABC special titled “Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” has provided another significant cultural boost to these drugs. In the groundbreaking special aired on March 18, Oprah shared her personal journey with one of these weight-loss medications, reframing obesity as a disease rather than a personal choice. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” Oprah said in the special’s introduction. She recalled a TV Guide cover that referred to her as “lumpy, bumpy, and downright dumpy…”

She candidly revealed her previous misconception that individuals who never struggled with weight were simply exerting superior willpower — a belief shattered upon experiencing the transformative effects of medication.

Oprah said:

All these years, I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower, and they were for some reason stronger than me…

She also said:

In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget… And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day I started to gain it back.

Central to Oprah’s narrative was the spotlight on GLP-1 agonists, a class of drugs mimicking a hormone that suppresses appetite and regulates blood sugar levels. These medications, including Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, and Zepbound, have demonstrated remarkable efficacy, aiding some patients in shedding approximately 20% of their body weight. Despite being initially approved to treat Type 2 diabetes, certain drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro have found off-label use for weight loss, while others like Wegovy and Zepbound are explicitly sanctioned as anti-obesity medications.

Winfrey’s special served as a platform to showcase the success stories of those who achieved significant weight loss with GLP-1 drugs, while also featuring insights from executives and medical experts associated with the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing these medications. Notably, Oprah’s commitment to transparency led her to sever ties with WeightWatchers’ board, redirecting her stock to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest, given the company’s endorsement of anti-obesity medications.

However, amidst the burgeoning popularity of drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound, skepticism persists, particularly regarding their widespread adoption among those seeking to shed a few pounds without weight-related health concerns. A Pew poll conducted in February revealed that 62% of respondents view these medications as unsuitable for people without weight-related health issues, echoing concerns voiced by some physicians who question the necessity of medical intervention for weight loss in certain cases.

As it’s been established, the use of GLP-1 drugs can cause side effects ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to more severe complications like pancreatitis and obstructions in the digestive system. Heightened scrutiny also surrounds potential long-term risks, including an elevated susceptibility to thyroid cancer.

In defense of these medications, Dr. Amanda Velazquez, a weight-loss specialist and consultant for pharmaceutical companies, downplayed the significance of side effects, categorizing them as “mild to moderate” based on research findings. Nonetheless, empirical evidence suggests that adverse reactions may prompt a significant proportion of patients to discontinue medication, leading to weight regain — a reality acknowledged by Velazquez during the special.

At the special’s end, Oprah emphasized that weight-loss drugs may not be for everyone and that some people may choose not to lose weight or to do so with diet and exercise. But “for the people who think that this could be the relief and support and freedom […] that you’ve been looking for your whole life,” she said, “bless you.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ozempic Gets the Oprah Treatment in a New TV Special,” TIME, 3/18, 24
Source: “The Biggest Takeaways From Oprah’s Ozempic Special,” The Cut, 3/19/24
Image by Love Quotes on Flickr

Study Confirms Genetic Link in BMI As Global Obesity Reaches Alarming Levels

A new study presented at the European Congress on Obesity suggests that middle-aged people are significantly more likely to become obese if one or both of their parents were overweight during that life stage. The research, led by Mari Mikkelsen from the Arctic University of Norway, analyzed data from over 2,000 parent-offspring pairs participating in the Tromso Study.

Study’s main points

Key findings of the study include:

  • Offspring BMI was directly influenced by their parents’ BMI.
  • A mother’s obesity increased the risk of middle-aged obesity by 3.4 times, while an obese father raised the risk by 3.7 times.
  • If both parents were obese, the likelihood of middle-aged obesity was six times higher.

More than just genetics

Mikkelsen explained the reason behind the study and commented on its main finding:

Obesity in childhood, and especially in adolescence, tends to follow the individual into early adulthood, and so we suspected it would also follow them into middle age… We found that this is indeed the case — children whose parents lived with obesity are much more likely to be in living with obesity themselves when they are in their 40s and 50s, long after they have left home.

Most likely, a combination of genetics and environment causes a parent’s weight to affect the subsequent weight of their kids, Mikkelsen said:

Genes play an important role by affecting our susceptibility to weight gain and influence how we respond to obesogenic environments in which it can be easy to eat unhealthily… Some studies also speculate that children tend to develop similar dietary and exercise habits to their parents when they all live together under the same roof, resulting in a similar BMI status.

WHO releases update on obesity and overweight numbers

In other news, the World Health Organization (WHO) just updated its statistics and initiatives status for March 2024. Here are some troubling facts:

In 2022, global rates of obesity and overweight reached alarming levels:

  • 1 in 8 people worldwide were living with obesity, with adult obesity doubling since 1990 and adolescent obesity quadrupling.
  • 5 billion adults were overweight, with 890 million of them living with obesity. This represented 43% of adults globally, with significant regional variations.
  • 37 million children under 5 and over 390 million aged 5-19 were overweight, with prevalence increasing particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents has risen dramatically since 1990, affecting 20% of this age group globally by 2022.

As a reminder, the definition of overweight and obesity varies by age and gender, with specific criteria provided by the WHO for children under 5 and children aged 5-19. Another reminder is the numbers above, that more research, an organized approach, and more involvement from all levels (from home to medical professionals and government organizations) are needed. We must keep fighting the fight.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity and overweight,” WHO, March 2024
Source: Odds of obesity derived from parents, study finds,” UPI.com, 3/8/24
Image by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

BPA Study Finds Different Gut Microbiota’s Response Based on BMI

Children with normal weight seem to have a different gut microbiota response to endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A (BPA) compared to those with overweight or obesity, one study finds. Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used in various plastic products, is known to disrupt hormone functions in the body and may affect human health. The study, published in mSystems, found differences in microbial communities between normal-weight children and those who were overweight or obese after BPA exposure.

Margarita Aguilera, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Granada in Spain, said:

We found that the gut microbial community responds differently to BPA exposure depending on the BMI (body-mass index) of the individual.

Specifically, children with normal weight hosted more diverse bacteria and showed greater resilience to BPA. Research from the University of Granada suggests that BPA exposure can lead to distinct microbial communities in normal-weight children compared to their overweight or obese counterparts.

BPA is increasingly present in human samples, indicating potential accumulation in the body. Moreover, there’s a growing body of evidence linking xenobiotics like BPA to obesity, especially when exposure occurs early in life.

The study aimed to evaluate how BPA affects gut microbiota in relation to childhood obesity and whether certain bacteria could serve as biomarkers for BPA exposure. Fecal samples from 106 children aged 5 to 10 were analyzed, revealing that BPA exposure led to specific microbial changes.

Certain bacterial species, such as Clostridium and Romboutsia, showed resistance to BPA and were positively associated with microbiota richness. On the other hand, other species were inversely correlated with gut diversity, potentially indicating an obesogenic phenotype.

Children with normal weight exhibited a more enriched and connected gut microbiome network compared to those with overweight or obesity, suggesting greater resilience to the effects of BPA. This finding underscores the importance of understanding the relationship between BPA, obesity, and gut microbiota for informing interventions and policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity risk.

Dr. Aguilera said:

We want to raise awareness about the health risks associated with microplastics that enter our bodies, and those that circulate in the environment… It’s crucial for individuals to be mindful of these concerns.

However, the study’s use of 16S rRNA gene sequencing limited taxonomy resolution, and further research is needed to fully elucidate the relationship between BPA-tolerant gut bacteria and obesity. Nonetheless, the findings highlight the need for awareness of the health risks associated with environmental toxins like BPA and microplastics.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Environmental Toxin BPA Affects Gut Microbial Communities in Children,” Pharmacy Times, 3/5/24
Source: “BPA exposure linked to gut microbiota, childhood obesity in new study,” EurikAlert, 3/1/24
“BPA exposure influences gut microbial diversity and childhood obesity risk,” News Medical, 3/1/24
Image by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

The Role of Exercise in Sustaining Weight Loss Beyond Medication

For nearly a year, the discourse surrounding GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy, Zepbound and Saxenda has been ongoing, with a central focus on what happens when patients stop using the meds. There’s been a prevailing concern: Can weight loss be maintained once these medications are discontinued? A recent Danish study, spearheaded by Professor Signe Sørensen Torekov and her team from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital, sheds crucial light on this matter.

GLP-1 weight loss drugs such as Wegovy have undoubtedly been instrumental in assisting users in shedding excess weight, especially in an era where obesity rates continue to rise. However, the apprehension lies in the aftermath of cessation — the fear of weight regain looms large. But Torekov’s study challenges this assumption. He says,

It is actually possible to stop taking the medication without large weight regain, if you follow a structured exercise regime. Our study offers new hope, as we have shown that the majority of those who take weight loss medication and exercise regularly are able to maintain the beneficial effects a year after treatment termination.

The study, led by Postdoc Simon Birk Kjær Jensen, scrutinized the effects following treatment for obesity, providing valuable insights into the long-term outcomes of these medications. Jensen says,

Even though medical treatment for obesity is effective, people who stop taking the drugs have difficulties maintaining the beneficial effects. Within a year, they will typically have gained more than two thirds of the lost weight. However, our study shows that people who exercise during treatment do not have the same propensity to put on weight post treatment.

Two hours of exercise a week is enough

The study’s methodology included four groups: a placebo group, a group receiving Saxenda (liraglutide 3 mg), an exercise-only group, and a group receiving Saxenda while also exercising regularly. The results underscored the significance of exercise, revealing that just two hours of exercise a week, coupled with medication or even on its own, significantly contributed to maintaining the benefits of treatment.

Jensen explains,

All it takes is two hours of exercise a week that gets the heart rate up and makes you pant. And it may differ from one person to the next. For people with severe obesity and low initial fitness level, a brisk walk may be sufficient, whereas people with higher fitness level may have to practise running or cycling, e.g. interval spinning.

Torekov emphasizes, “We now have an effective drug for obesity, but it’s imperative to combine medical treatment with regular physical exercise.” The study indicates that exercise not only aids in weight maintenance but also enhances overall quality of life, as evidenced by improved energy levels and mental well-being among participants in the exercise groups.

The implications of this study are profound, suggesting a paradigm shift in the approach to obesity treatment. Torekov and Jensen even advocate for the integration of exercise recommendations into prescriptions for weight loss drugs.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “With regular exercise, medical weight loss treatment does not have to be permanent,” EurekAlert.com, 2/20/24
Source: “Healthy weight loss maintenance with exercise…,” ScienceDirect.com, 2/19/24
Image by Yulissa Tagle on Unsplash

GLP-1 Weight Loss Medications in the News

We continue looking at the latest headlines in the fascinating and controversial world of GLP-1 weight loss drugs. Let’s go!

Coverage of weight loss drugs might be changing

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering a change that would require insurers to cover obesity drugs for more than 20 million Americans under Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans. This change could expand coverage for obesity drugs, infertility treatments, and sexual dysfunction treatments, potentially impacting the market significantly.

Study finds GLP-1 med reduces opioid craving

In other news, the study presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference demonstrates that the GLP-1 medication liraglutide significantly reduces opioid cravings, potentially offering a novel approach to treating opioid addiction. Among 20 patients with opioid use disorder, those on liraglutide experienced a 40% reduction in cravings over the three-week study, with the effect seen even at low doses.

Combining liraglutide with buprenorphine, another medication for opioid use disorder, further reduced cravings and mitigated gastrointestinal side effects. However, gastrointestinal distress led to a high dropout rate among participants, highlighting a potential barrier to treatment.

Despite limitations such as the small sample size and short trial duration, researchers emphasize the importance of these findings as a proof of concept and plan larger trials to confirm the efficacy of liraglutide in treating opioid addiction.

GLP-1 drugs show potential for alcoholism treatment

Christian Hendershot, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill psychologist who has been studying GLP-1s for alcohol use disorder and was not involved with the study, emphasized the importance of this data as a proof of concept and a stepping stone toward larger trials. He said:

The reason these initial findings are nice is that they looked at this question in a really controlled environment. We know that craving predicts relapses in many cases, so having established that reduction, the next question is whether drugs like liraglutide suppress craving and relapse in the natural environment…

Patricia Grigson, director of the Penn State Addiction Center for Translation, who was involved in the trial, also commented:

With one person dying every five minutes and people dying around the world due to opioid exposure, we feel a sense of urgency… I feel very hopeful; there may be a new treatment for opioid use disorder.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Should ACA plans cover weight loss drugs?,” STATNews.com, 2/20/2024
Source: “Opioid cravings were reduced by anti-obesity drug in small study,” STATNews.com, 2/17/2024
Image by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Pet Obesity Survey Reveals U.S. Cats and Dogs Getting Fatter

We haven’t discussed pet obesity in a while, with such hot topics as advertising to kids and the GLP-1 weight-loss drugs taking over for a while. So now is a good time as any to revisit this topic.

Although there isn’t currently much in the news about pet obesity, except for some pet food companies tooting their own horn by promoting their weight-management pet food products, maybe the lack of news is still news — or non-news — or at least a stark reminder that not much is being done about our fat pets.

Dogs and cats are getting fatter

A pet obesity survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in 2022 (the most recent statistics available) showed an increase in overweight and obese dogs and cats, with 59% of dogs and 61% of cats classified as overweight or obese. For dogs, this percentage increased from 56% in 2018 and 2017, and for cats a slight increase from 60%.

Let’s put this in perspective. To put a visual on how even a “little” weight gain for a pet compares to an average human, for a cat, 2 lbs over ideal weight is equivalent to 30 lbs in humans. For a small dog, compared to a human, it’s 12 lbs, and for a large dog, it’s 5 lbs.

Other key survey findings include these revelations:

Consistent with previous surveys, many dog and cat owners failed to recognize excess weight or overweight body conditions in their pets. Nearly one-third (32%) of owners of overweight or obese pets (BCS 6-9) classified their pet as “normal,” “ideal,” or “thin” body condition when asked by their veterinary professional.

36% of dog owners considered their pet’s body condition “normal” when their veterinary professional classified it as BCS 6-9 (overweight to obesity).

28% of cat owners considered their pet’s body condition “normal” when their veterinary professional classified it as BCS 6-9 (overweight to obesity).

That’s a pretty skewed perception, especially considering the fact that pets count on us to keep them healthy.

Do veterinarians discuss healthy weight?

Yes, and it’s gotten better. The survey found that 49% of respondents reported that their veterinary professionals discussed their pet’s ideal or healthy weight yearly, compared to 46% in 2021. Adding to this somewhat hope-inspiring finding, two-thirds (67%) of pet owners surveyed said they “have not felt embarrassment or uncomfortable after being told their pet needed to lose weight.”

Pet weight loss strategies and success rates

The numbers show that the majority of pet owners try to help their pets lose weight (73% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners). The survey attempts to explain the difference between cat and dog weight loss efforts may be attributable to factors such as:

[…] being able to exercise a dog through walks or outdoor physical activities, the ability to perceive weight gain more easily on a canine, or familiarity with breed standards and morphology.

As for the self-reported success rates, dog owners reported higher “success” or “some success” rates than cat owners (34% vs. 19%, and 26% vs. 34%, respectively). “No success” or “My pet did not lose weight despite my best effort” was reported by 23% of dog and 29% of cat owners.

Causes of pet obesity and who is to blame

Finally, the survey used a Likert Scale format to help determine pet owners’ opinions on the causes of pet obesity. There were five response choices: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree. To the question of whether or not pet owners thought obesity was a result of overfeeding 73% of pet owners somewhat or strongly agreed. Seventy percent of respondents somewhat agreed that pet obesity is caused by poor feeding choices, and 68% agreed or somewhat agreed that obesity is caused by not enough exercise.

The last finding we cite here might give us pause, since a majority of pet owners reported being aware their pets are overweight and trying to help them lose weight. Still, only 32% of pet owners surveyed strongly agreed that pet owners are to blame for an overweight or obese pet, 30% somewhat agreed, 23% were neutral, 8% somewhat disagreed, and 7% downright disagreed.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “2022 U.S. Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey,” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 2022
Source: “What does weight gain actually look like for your pet?,” HillsPet.com, undated
Image by Nika Benedictova on Unsplash

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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