A leading Australian nutritionist has warned that rushing to take medication for weight loss is both “unnecessary” and “unsustainable” – saying too many people are being misinformed about the correct way to lose weight.
Donna Aston says people are being bombarded with a plethora of weight loss fads and are seeking a “quick-fix” rather than making the necessary lifestyle changes.
Her comments comes as Diabetes Australia and the Therapeutic Goods Administration has warned of an ongoing shortage of the drug Ozempic, which is commonly used to treat people with type 2 diabetes but is also becoming increasingly popular as a so-called weight loss drug.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration – backed by Diabetes Australia and peak professional medical bodies – has recently warned of ongoing shortages of Ozempic until at least December, after supply issues first arose earlier this year. It has advised health professionals and pharmacies to prioritise supplying only those people with type 2 diabetes.
The TGA said the drug was now being extensively prescribed to treat obesity, which it was not indicated for – but for which it is commonly touted on social media, with people bragging about dropping a dress size without dieting or exercise.
“This is not a magic weight loss pill, which is what people seem to want,” health and nutrition expert Aston says.
“To change you have to be willing to give something up, you have to be willing to make that change.
“This ‘quick fix’ is not only unnecessary, it’s also expensive and unsustainable. Plus it comes with the risk of side-effects including nausea, thyroid and kidney problems. Why would you take that risk when there is another way?”
Aston - who developed the online program AstonRX, which focuses on improving metabolic function and gut health with the side-effect of rapid weight loss - says the key to weight loss is insulin resistance, a fact backed up by the use of Ozempic, which increases insulin sensitivity.
Insulin promotes glucose uptake and storage in muscles and adipose tissues (fat cells).
Chronically high levels of insulin increases the storage of energy in our fat cells, as well as inhibiting our ability to use stored fat for fuel. As well as potentially leading to obesity, high levels of insulin can also cause hypertension, elevated cholesterol, fatty liver and eventually type 2 diabetes.
“The good news is that it can be easily reversed – without drugs,” Aston says.
Ozempic – a once-a-week injectable prescription medicine designed to be used alongside diet and exercise to improve blood glucose levels and manage other health risks – has been approved in Australia only for the management of type-2 diabetes.
Its active ingredient controls insulin but has also been found to suppress appetite receptors in the brain.
Its rise in social media popularity as a “miracle weight loss drug” has sparked controversy and anger, with some critics suggesting it is lazy and “taking away (other people’s) medication just so you don’t have to eat properly and do some exercise”.
Aston says it is also unnecessary and people can achieve better and more long-lasting weight loss and health results by eating more whole, fibrous plant foods, reducing refined carbohydrates and exercising.
By following a healthy eating and exercise regimen, glucose and insulin will naturally normalise – to the point many of Aston’s clients have been taken off glucose-lowering medication as a result.
Aston says those people who opt for drugs to lose weight, rather than health and lifestyle changes, are simply ill-informed and have most likely tried numerous “fad” diets only to fail time and time again.
“People need to be empowered with the correct knowledge in order to be successful,” Aston says.
And she warns taking drugs such as Ozempic can lead to other health issues.
“For weight loss or any other reason, most pharmaceuticals have side effects,” she says.
“In the case of Ozempic, common side effects are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation, tiredness, diarrhea, etc. It is also contraindicated for those with a history of thyroid issues (may cause thyroid cancer in some individuals), kidney issues and may exacerbate diabetic retinopathy.
“And it is simply not necessary! You get the same results – long term - without any risk of side effects – from a proper, healthy diet and exercise.”
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