In a recent Editorial, Cynthia Bulik and Andrew Hardaway discuss the advancements in medical treatments for obesity and weight loss. “With the emergence of new, highly effective weight-loss drugs, might the ‘fat decades’ become a closed chapter in the history of public health?” ask the authors. The “obesity epidemic” is a global health concern, with more than a billion people affected by obesity and many more overweight.
Factors Behind Obesity and New Treatments
Although various environmental, biological, and behavioral factors have been implicated in obesity, few consistently effective treatments exist for the disease. However, there’s renewed hope with the introduction of new weight-loss drugs. For instance, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, initially developed for treating diabetes, have displayed potential. They work by suppressing appetite and amplifying satiety signals from the gut to the brain.
Concerns Surrounding New Medications
However, there are concerns related to these new medications. Firstly, they come with a high price tag, which can exacerbate health disparities. This is especially concerning since obesity predominantly impacts marginalized racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Moreover, weight regain is common once the medication is discontinued, functionally rendering them “forever” drugs with currently unknown potential long-term side effects. “Tackling these issues is essential to prevent unintended consequences brought on by the meteoric success of these drugs,” write Bulik and Hardaway. “We are entering an era in which effective obesity treatments exist for the first time.”
Reference: “Turning the tide on obesity?” by Cynthia M. Bulik and J. Andrew Hardaway, 3 August 2023, Science.