The Word On Fitness

The Dangers of Weight Loss Injections

By Ry Ryan-Lim

As a health and fitness professional, I see a lot of fads come and go. Do y’all remember Jazzercise? P90X? The Shake Weight? Jenny Craig? How about Jane Fonda?

The newest fad I see advertised everywhere in town is weight loss injections. I mean, who doesn’t want a little help losing a few pounds? Especially with little to no effort. And with celebrities and influencers constantly talking about their results, it sounds tempting. However, this is one trend that gets me really fired up.

Before I start ranting, let’s talk about what these drugs are actually for:

The active ingredient in the weight loss injections is called Semaglutide. It was developed for people with type II diabetes to lower blood sugar by aiding the body in making insulin and preventing your liver from releasing too much sugar into the bloodstream. It mimics a naturally occurring hormone, GLP-1, that tells your brain you’re full, and slows down digestion therefore increasing the time food is present in your body. This leads to decreased appetite and, of course, weight loss. You may recognize either of its brand names, Ozempic and Wegovy.

Is it effective? Absolutely. It’s reported to increase weight loss in patients by 13.8% over a year-long period. It’s also becoming a popular option for those who qualify for bariatric surgery but don’t want to go through something so risky and invasive. Despite a shortage in July 2023, more and more people are hopping on this craze.

However, this path to weight loss comes at a cost. And I’m not just talking about the hefty price tag.

First, although Wegovy is approved for weight loss, the brand Ozempic isn’t. Semaglutide is also not a generic drug, so if you find someone advertising injections under that name, it is likely that it has come from a compound pharmacy and may not be safe. 

Once you start taking these injections for weight loss, you’ll have to continue taking it or you’ll gain all your weight back. This means it is intended to be a weekly injection for the rest of your life. That’s a long time to commit to a drug that we don’t even know the long-term effects on the body. There’s been numerous reports of severe gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and severe stomach pain, and it has been shown to impact the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and cause inflammation in the pancreas or gall stones. It’s also been reported to cause extreme fatigue or insomnia. 

But the biggest thing that grinds my gears (and I promise it’s not because I own a gym) is that this is an assault by pharmaceutical companies to lead consumers to believe that the only way out of obesity is to have it addressed medically. Instead of addressing the causes of obesity and our role in it, whether it is caused by poor habits or genetics, we are tricked into ignoring the obvious–our relationship with food and exercise. We are convinced that it is easier to throw money at weight loss. The allure of a quick fix is very tempting, but the satisfaction of making true, lasting changes is far more rewarding.