There is no doubt about it: as a society, we are groaning under the weight of obesity. The World Health Organization warns that two thirds of women and three quarters of men will be overweight by 2030.
We will face an “enormous” crisis if it is not resolved, the organization says. By the end of the decade, obesity will be a greater cause of liver failure than alcohol.
Obesity is currently estimated to cost the country £58 billion a year. To put that into perspective, that’s just under a third of the entire NHS budget. The situation is getting out of control.
In recent months, however, a glimmer of hope has appeared: semaglutide.
This medication has actually existed for several years under the trade name Ozempic. It was developed for diabetes and is similar to a hormone naturally found in the body.
Weight loss vaccines Ozempic and Wegovy – types of semaglutide drugs – reduce appetite and prevent food cravings
It would be injected once a week to stabilize a patient’s blood sugar levels, but researchers also noticed that it helped people lose weight.
A very similar treatment also containing semaglutide – under the name Wegovy – has now been approved to treat obesity.
The drug acts like a hormone in the brain, making people feel less hungry and slowing the elimination of food from the stomach, thereby promoting weight loss.
With others in development, it offers real hope to those who have struggled to lose weight. I know this, because I saw it with my own eyes.
For many years I worked in an eating disorder treatment service and part of my job involved assessing obese patients who were awaiting bariatric surgery, most commonly gastric banding or bypass surgery so that they could they feel full after eating much less than they were used to.
However, most were not eligible and, other than surgery, we could not offer them much.
Instead, we should send them back to their GP with advice on healthy eating and exercise. It was heartbreaking because many were tormented by their weight but felt powerless to do anything and yet when they asked for help the NHS was unresponsive.
Then, a few years ago, patients started talking to me about semaglutide. Some have started getting it privately and I must say the results have been surprising.
Since then, more and more patients have been taking this medication, and it’s sometimes quite emotional to see patients on their weight loss journey with this medication.
People who have struggled with their weight their entire lives have seemingly lost weight effortlessly. They just aren’t really hungry anymore and don’t want to eat like they used to. This was a game changer.
Dr Max founded a start-up (getslimmr.co.uk) with the aim of offering a no-frills service to keep costs low and allow as many people as possible to access semaglutide medicines.
This does not mean, however, that it is a panacea. There is no doubt that this is not suitable for everyone.
It doesn’t address people’s underlying relationship with food. Some people consume food for psychological reasons and, of course, an injection cannot cure this in any way. These people will continue to need emotional and psychological support.
Like any medicine, it also has side effects. The most common ones – nausea, diarrhea, constipation and fatigue – tend to get better over time, but this varies from person to person and some may not be able to tolerate them.
But for many people who have struggled with their weight, it really seems to help them lose weight. This can give them the boost they need to manage their weight, exercise regularly and eat healthily. I think for many it will literally be a lifesaver.
There are currently barriers to its widespread use. It is difficult to obtain and expensive, leading desperate people to buy it illegally on the Internet.
This means it is unlikely to have been stored or shipped at the correct temperature (it needs to be kept at a consistent cold temperature) and some batches have even been found to be fake, meaning people are risking their lives .
Indeed, in the United States, two people died and three were hospitalized after taking fake versions of the drug. And in some cases, doctors are also reluctant to use it.
This surprised and saddened me, but I think it’s because there is still a lot of stigma around obesity and some view these injections as “cheating”, as if those who are overweight should suffer in their quest for a healthy weight.
For many people who have struggled with their weight injections like Ozempic, it really seems to help them lose weight.
Yet we don’t apply this logic to other problems people face – no one says the same thing about nicotine replacement therapies for smokers, for example.
I am so convinced that this drug offers hope to those struggling with excess weight that I founded a start-up (getslimmr.co.uk) with the aim of offering a no-frills service to keep costs low and allow as many people as possible to access it.
It provides an online assessment that is reviewed by a prescriber once submitted and, if the patient is eligible, Wegovy is then delivered directly to their door.
I work there evenings and weekends and will continue to work full time in the NHS when we fully launch it in a few weeks, but I hope this will mean patients can get the drug at a reasonable cost , wherever they are in the country. country.
For years, public health campaigns have encouraged people to eat healthy foods and exercise. Despite all this, obesity rates have increased.
What we are doing is simply not working. This new drug is, I passionately believe, the future of weight loss.
Dame Maureen showed us the true meaning of bravery
Dame Maureen Lipman, 77, spoke out against anti-Semitism following terror attacks in Israel
Coronation Street star Dame Maureen Lipman was reportedly given a bodyguard on set earlier this month after speaking out against anti-Semitism in the wake of terror attacks in Israel.
Where have we come to the point where a 77-year-old woman needs to be protected simply because she had the courage to speak out against prejudice and racism? I was completely horrified to learn that Jews were afraid to walk the streets of the UK for fear of attacks.
How have we allowed our moral compass to become so distorted?
Thank goodness there are people like Dame Maureen.
Even though evil prevails when good men (and women) do nothing, it must not have been easy for her to put her head above the parapet in this way, knowing that by doing so she would become the target of more defamation and hatred.
I emailed her to tell her how much support she had and how brave I thought she was for taking a stand. She responded by saying she didn’t feel brave. She felt nervous, she said, but knew the silence was worse. This got me thinking.
People often think that to be considered courageous, you have to feel no fear when you do or say something. But it’s wrong. In my opinion, being afraid but speaking out anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do is true courage.
Cannabis use increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke by up to a third, according to two major studies. This is in addition to all the other risks the medication carries.
So why are we turning a blind eye to cannabis while cracking down on vaping and nitrous oxide which, while not without risk, pose less of a threat to health?
Women in the UK are the biggest binge drinkers in the developed world, according to international data. Some of the worst offenders are educated, middle-class, middle-aged women.
What is happening here? Let us remember that this generation of women was young in the early 1990s, during the ladette era.
One of the ways doctors use to screen for alcohol problems is the CAGE questionnaire.
Have you ever felt the need to reduce your alcohol consumption? Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? Have you ever felt guilty about drinking? Do you need to drink early in the morning? Answering yes to two or more answers means there might be a problem.
The Runner’s Advent Calendar contains gifts like recovery snacks, running socks, and hydration packs.
DR MAX PRESCRIBED…
Runner’s Advent Calendar
Designed for everyone, from the avid runner to the casual jogger, this Advent calendar encourages you to stay fit even as the evenings draw in and it gets colder.
Containing items such as recovery snacks, running socks and hydration packs, it has everything a runner needs.