Many healthcare providers have shied away from the use of medication to aid in weight loss in the past but now weight loss medications are being discussed more by experts.
Have you ever struggled with continuous dieting and exercise but weren’t seeing results? You are not alone, they’re many other people who deal with the same issue. Losing weight can be more complicated than just eating less and exercising more. Genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors play a role in weight loss. These factors can make weight loss exceptionally difficult for some people.
Losing weight is not always a matter of willpower or motivation. Many people struggle with losing weight for years on end. It can feel like an uphill battle with no end in sight. Recently the American Gastroenterological Association made new recommendations that people who suffer from obesity may benefit from using prescription weight-loss medication in addition to diet and exercise.
A panel of experts in the field gathered to review data and make recommendations. They concluded that “Adults with overweight and obesity who have an inadequate response to lifestyle interventions alone, long-term pharmacological therapy is recommended, with multiple effective and safe treatment options.”3
The panel hopes that with their recommendations, doctors will have more confidence and education to help patients suffering from being overweight and obese. They recommend prescription weight loss medication because obesity is a biological disease and using just diet and exercise usually doesn’t work in the long run. Currently, several weight loss medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as Wegovy, Qsymia, Saxenda, and Contrave. The panel agreed against the use of Orlistat for weight loss due to the high risk of adverse side effects.
Each medication is unique and has its own specific possible side effects. Weight loss medications work by either decreasing appetite, increasing the feeling of fullness, or decreasing the absorption of fat. Before starting any new medication you should discuss it with your healthcare provider. It is never advised that you share or use someone else’s medications.
Obesity is a disease that affects more than 4 out of every 10 adults in the United States.2 The American Medical Association began recognizing obesity as a chronic progressive disease in 2013 and describes obesity as having “multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions.”1
Healthcare providers use body mass index (BMI) to decide if weight loss medications are appropriate for you. The general guideline to see if someone is a candidate for weight loss medication is that they have a BMI of greater than or equal to 30 or a BMI of 27 or greater in combination with weight-related health problems. In most cases, your healthcare provider will want to confirm that you have been working on lifestyle modifications before prescribing medication. It is important to know that medication is used in addition to diet and exercise. Weight loss medication is not used as a replacement for diet and exercise.
Obesity is not a health condition to be taken lightly. It has been linked with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, and more adverse health conditions. Unfortunately, obesity rates are on the rise. Diet and exercise alone just don’t work for some people.
Dr. John Morton of Yale School of Medicine told Healthline, “Your body wants to hold onto its weight and will not let it go – that’s why you need metabolic interventions, like these drugs…Obesity is a biological disease. By that, I mean it is a disease independent of motivation, it’s independent of psychology – it’s really dependent on physiology…Deciding which medication is best for the patient depends on several factors including co-existing weight-related conditions, patient’s prior medical history and patient preference.”4
There are several possible side effects of weight loss medications that should be discussed with your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist before beginning treatment. The most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, abdominal pain, and headache. Your healthcare provider must also consider your medical history and current medications. Weight loss medication may not be appropriate for you if it could negatively affect any of your other medical conditions or medications. If you are obese and interested in weight loss medication you should discuss treatment options with a healthcare provider.
- Obesity. AMA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://policysearch.ama-assn.org/policyfinder/detail/obesity?uri=%2FAMADoc%2FHOD.xml-0-3858.xml
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 30). Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
- Grunvald, E., Shah, R., Hernaez, R., Chandar, A. K., Pickett-Blakely, O., Teigen, L. M., Harindhanavudhi, T., Sultan, S., Singh, S., & Davitkov, P. (2022). AGA clinical practice guideline on pharmacological interventions for adults with obesity. Gastroenterology, 163(5), 1198–1225. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2022.08.045
- Ries, J. (2022, October 20). New guidelines advise these weight loss drugs for people with obesity. Healthline. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/new-guidelines-recommend-these-weight-loss-drugs-for-people-with-obesity