TikTok Weight Loss Trend Raises Concerns Over Side Effects

Obesity is growing in the United States and the United Kingdom, leaving many with the will to lose weight. Drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy by Novo Nordisk are becoming popular for weight loss. But are they safe?

All it takes is a quick scroll on TikTok to see the trend of Ozempic and Wegovy users displaying their new body transformations. Both drugs are semaglutide injections with varying dosages. Semaglutide can make individuals feel full, preventing them from consuming more food. Novo Nordisk markets Ozempic (.5mg, 1mg, and 2mg ) for type 2 diabetes and Wegovy (2.4 mg) for losing weight.

According to the CDC, obesity prevalence in the U.S. was 41.9% from 2017 to March 2020. In the U.K., Britain's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says the obesity population has risen from 14.9% in 1993 to 28.0% in 2021.

Obesity occurs when an individual’s weight is higher than a healthy weight at the person’s height. The CDC says obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The FDA has approved Ozempic for improving blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes in combination with diet and exercise. Meanwhile, Wegovy has been approved for weight loss in individuals with at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.

NICE recommends Wegovy for people living with obesity containing a weight-related condition last year. NICE is expected to release its final guidelines this year.

Despite both drugs’ becoming increasingly popular to help lose weight, their success hasn’t come without concerns about worrisome side effects.

The FDA lists possible side effects of Ozempic, highlighting the drug may cause low blood sugar, inflammation of the pancreas, complications of diabetes-related retina disease (diabetic retinopathy), and allergic reactions. Other side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and headaches. Also, during animal studies, the drug developed a particular form of thyroid cancer in rats and mice. The FDA notes it is unaware if this persists in humans.

The FDA echoes similar side effect concerns with Wegovy in its release of approval for the drug in 2021. Also emphasized is a boxed warning to inform health professionals and patients about the possible risk of thyroid C-cell tumors. This past December, the FDA approved Wegovy injections for treating teens aged 12 and up with obesity.

It is essential to know that the pair of drugs are not intended for individuals seeking quick weight loss but for those with adverse weight conditions or type 2 diabetes. Many trendy users of Ozempic and Wegovy do not have a weight-related condition but are trying to lose weight fast.

Speedy results can come with consequences

Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon, Gary Motykie, documents possible 'Ozempic face' from Ozepmic use in a February TikTok on Motykie’s page.

"The thing about rapid weight loss or things like Ozempic, is whatever happens to your body will also happen to your face," Motykie said, "So what they're saying is a lot of loss of facial fat volume, volume in the face is also going away. It is not necessarily a great look, because everybody knows as we get a little bit older and we lose volume in our face, we tend to look gaunt, tired, and older."

Along with the possible side effect fears, the increased demand for the drugs may impact those with type 2 diabetes who need Ozempic. An NBC News report documents some users cannot acquire the drug due to its rising popularity last summer on TikTok. And some U.S. pharmacies are no longer stocking Ozempic due to its high cost.

Another drug that may receive approval for weight loss by the FDA is Eli Lilly and Co.’s Mounjaro. The drug was approved by the FDA last spring for improving blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. They've most recently capped their insulin prices at $35. Phase 3 trials show the drug can make patients lose an average of 22.5% of their body weight.

Overall, fast weight loss is never the answer. Seeking out a healthy diet for your needs, implementing exercise, and building a safe relationship with your body is essential is prolonging a successful weight-loss journey.

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