Beware trendy weight loss solutions

| May 10, 2024

Unproven weight loss products and social media hype mislead women. Why is it so easy to fall for it?

The health and wellness industry bombards women with weight-loss solutions like detox teas and waist trainers, promising effortless results. These products often lack scientific backing, leaving the glossy advertisements and influencer endorsements far from reality.

Semaglutide, a medication approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, has found its way into the hands of women seeking quick fixes for weight loss.

Marketed under brands such as Ozempic and Wegovy, semaglutide works by lowering blood sugar and regulating insulin levels. The drug also mimics a naturally produced hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 that limits appetite so that we feel full, prompting our stomachs to empty more slowly.

Overweight and obese people do experience weight loss from consuming the medication. But experts warn of the dangers of this trend and the importance of consulting a doctor before taking any medication.

Studies have highlighted its potential benefits, such as weight loss and improved energy intake, while others raised concerns about its misuse resulting in prescription shortages and potential risks, ranging from nausea and diarrhoea to more severe complications such as pancreatitis.

These risks are often downplayed or overlooked in the pursuit of a slimmer figure.

Social media influencers promoting prescription drugs such as Ozempic for weight loss also raises concerns about safety and unrealistic expectations.

This has prompted TikTok to actively crack down on content promoting weight loss products on its app starting this month as part of its new community guidelines.

Ozempic, Wegovy and Rybelsus are registered medicines in Malaysia and can be purchased in pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription. Ozempic is available in two forms; one in 0.25mg delivering 0.5mg/dose and another that delivers 1mg/dose.

The accessibility of these medications may be too expensive for those without health insurance. However, some people have resorted to unconventional means to obtain prescriptions, including soliciting prescribers who may be inclined to accommodate such requests or procuring the medication online.

It is crucial to recognise that these medications have not undergone systematic evaluation in people with lower body weights, which raises concerns about the potential for side effects. In the absence of comprehensive research, the full extent of these remains uncertain.

Consequently, people obtaining these medications online deprive themselves of regulatory safeguards potentially compromising their health.

By promoting unhealthy weight-loss practices and reinforcing societal pressure on women to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, these products contribute to the broader systemic issues that disproportionately affect women.

They reinforce the notion that a woman’s worth is tied to her appearance, undermining true gender equality. This pressure to conform to society’s beauty standards takes a toll on women’s mental health.

Research has highlighted the link between exposure to idealised body images and negative body image outcomes, including body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and eating disorders.

Regulatory bodies and healthcare organisations have a responsibility to monitor and regulate pharmaceutical marketing practices on social media.

Clearer guidelines could also be established to ensure that influencers disclose any partnerships or financial arrangements with pharmaceutical companies when promoting medications like Ozempic.

Medical professionals in Malaysia are typically guided by established clinical practice guidelines, regulatory requirements and ethical standards when prescribing weight management medication. These guidelines often emphasise evidence-based practice, patient safety, and the importance of considering individual patient characteristics and medical history when making treatment decisions.

Stricter penalties for medical professionals who irresponsibly prescribe Ozempic for weight loss would deter inappropriate prescribing practices and protect patients. Such penalties could include disciplinary action by professional regulatory bodies, revocation of their medical licence or hefty fines.

Efforts to educate consumers about the proper use of prescription medications and the importance of consulting healthcare professionals before starting any new treatment are crucial for promoting informed decision-making and protecting public health.

It is also important that women remain vigilant against these exploitative tactics.

Women can prioritise informed decision-making by building a trusting relationship with their healthcare provider so they can express their concerns, ask questions and properly discuss treatment options. Good preparation — research, asking questions, knowing their rights — will help them make good choices.

Stopping the medication may lead to weight gain. Public health campaigns can focus on promoting healthy and sustainable weight loss practices while countering the allure of quick fixes like Ozempic.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.