Many healthcare providers have shied away from the use of weight loss medication in the past but now medications are being recommended more often.
Healthcare professionals and researchers are learning that 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.
Recently, the American Gastroenterological Association released 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. They concluded that adults who are obese and haven’t been responding well to diet and exercise alone could benefit from prescription weight loss medications.2 The panel hopes that with their recommendations, doctors will have more confidence and education to help patients suffering from obesity.
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, which was being used 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.1 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. 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 should be used in addition to diet and exercise. Weight loss medication is not used as a replacement for diet and exercise, and it is not used for people who just need to lose a few pounds.
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.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 30). Adult obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 25, 2022
- 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.