Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic,” croon the voices in an oft-aired commercial for the Type 2 diabetes drug, Ozempic by Novo Nordisk. The jingle is sung to the tune of “Magic” by the 1970s band Pilot—which is fitting: With its reported ability to cause rapid weight loss as a side effect to blood-sugar management, the drug has been hailed as a miracle treatment by those in the know.
“Patients consider it a wonder drug,” says New York dermatologic surgeon Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, who, like many doctors, is being asked about it with a dizzying frequency. “Other than Viagra and Botox, I’ve seen no other medication so quickly become part of modern culture’s social vernacular.”
That’s not an understatement. The term “post-Ozempic body” is trending and is increasingly batted around in social media and IRL as speculation swirls following any high-profile—and highly visible—weight loss. Last month Elon Musk credited Wegovy, a similar drug, as one of the reasons for his more svelte appearance (fasting was the other)
Andy Cohen tweeted about #Ozempic in September, a hashtag that has clocked over 274 million views on TikTok; and it’s been widely suggested that Kim Kardashian relied on the drug for dramatic weight loss in pursuit of fitting into Marilyn Monroe’s famous wiggle dress at this year’s Met Gala. Whether celebrities admit to using it (or not), Google searches for Ozempic are also on the rise, signaling an insatiable desire to learn more about its sudden slimming effects.
With thinness currently dominating the fashion landscape again (some would argue that it never really went away), it’s a reminder of how easily weight can be influenced by the trend cycle. But the fact that many people are willing to subject themselves to regular injections and potentially uncomfortable side effects in the name of fitting into a narrow body standard is troubling, to say the least.
“I worry about the body distortion, dysmorphia, and the example we are setting for young women already so vulnerable to the unrealistically filtered versions of beauty,” says LA-based cosmetic dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. Nancy Rahnama, MD, a board-certified internist and obesity-medicine specialist in private practice in Beverly Hills, agrees:
Celebrities using, or rather abusing, these weight-loss drugs—not for health reasons but simply to achieve their ideal figure—is deeply problematic in its amplification of weight-loss culture, says Dr. Rahnama. As diminutive waistlines become conflated with health, what, exactly, is this now perpetually name-checked class of drugs, and who should—and, perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t—be taking them?
What is Ozempic?
A semaglutide, which is the active ingredient in Ozempic, belongs to a class of medications called GLP-1 agonists. These compounds replicate a hormone we all make in our intestines that is released after we start eating. “Semaglutide increases insulin release in response to glucose intake and causes a minor delay in gastric emptying,” says Ariana Chao, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and medical director of the school’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders.
“It also acts in areas of the brain involved in regulating appetite and food intake. The medication also makes your body more sensitive to the insulin that you produce on your own, adds Holly Lofton, MD, a clinical associate professor in the departments of surgery and medicine and director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health.
“By doing that,” explains Dr. Lofton, “it helps your body’s fat cells shrink over time.” Novo Nordisk produces both the semaglutide Ozempic and Wegovy, which, while approved for two different purposes, are in fact similar. “Semaglutide 1 mg (Ozempic) is a once-weekly injection FDA approved to treat diabetes since 2017.
A higher 2 mg dose was approved in early 2022,” says W. Scott Butsch, MD, MSc, director of obesity medicine in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “Wegovy is a higher dose of weekly semaglutide (2.4 mg) that was approved for the treatment of obesity in July 2021…
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