The skinny jab – here's what you need to know

14 Jul, 2023

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Nutracheck's weight loss advisor, Dr Ian Campbell shares his expert opinion.

For over 30 years, Dr Campbell has passionately promoted a holistic approach to weight management. He was the show doctor on three seasons of ITV's Biggest Loser and works closely with Nutracheck to help our members live healthier, happier lives.

We asked Dr C for his opinion on the new 'skinny jab' that has recently been approved for use in the UK. The controversial injection has become favoured by celebs as a way to drop the pounds, but does it work and what are the risks?

What is the 'skinny jab'?

"Wegovy, also known as Ozempic or Semaglutide, is an injection that helps people lose weight," he explains. "It's both safe and effective, with users able to lose an average of 10% of their bodyweight, or 13kg, over a two-year period. It has the potential to help a lot of people." The downside? "It needs to be injected weekly, over several years, to produce the potential health benefits."

So, how exactly does it work? "Wegovy mimics the appetite-suppressing hormone GLP-1, making the patient feel fuller and helping them consume fewer calories," Dr Campbell explains. This dip in calorie consumption results in weight loss.

Who is it for?

Wegovy is likely to be most helpful for those who are clinically obese, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30, and at least one weight-related health risk, such as Type 2 Diabetes or high blood pressure. "For patients in that category who really struggle to control their appetite, it may have a positive role to play."

Not everyone is a good candidate for Wegovy. "People with a BMI of less than 30 shouldn't use it as the side effects outweigh the benefits," Dr Campbell says. "There's also a concern that it may cause issues for those who have eating disorders, so close medical supervision is essential."

Not without side effects

Side effects include stomach upsets and bloating. "These may be troublesome, but aren't likely to be harmful," says Dr Campbell. "Extensive clinical trials have shown Semaglutide to be safe and so far there has been no indication of long-term ill effects. As with any new drug, usage is still being monitored and should any adverse effects emerge, these would be investigated as a matter of course."

The term 'Ozempic face' has also been bandied about in recent news coverage. "This is a nickname given to the facial changes that can occur, resulting in a rather gaunt look," Dr Campbell explains. "This isn't unique to Ozempic but can happen with any rapid weight loss programme, as we can't target specific areas of fat loss. Reducing abdominal fat is key, but rapid weight loss will also cause a loss of peripheral fat around your face and neck. Experiencing "Ozempic face" suggests that weight loss may be too rapid for long-term sustainability."

Clinical trials have shown Semaglutide to be effective during treatment. "Here's the problem," Dr Campbell warns. "Once you stop using it, you regain most of the weight. Overall, 80% of weight lost in clinical trials was regained once treatment stopped." Currently, the proposed NHS guidance would limit use to a maximum of two years. It's not clear if treatment could be repeated.

Thinking long-term

"What's clear is that unless Wegovy patients receive the right guidance and support, any benefit will be short lived," says Dr Campbell. He's conscious that regaining weight after treatment may affect a patient's mindset. "There's a risk that disappointment can cause people to lose confidence and give-up on their weight loss journey." He also cautions against implying that Wegovy is a miracle drug. "If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is."

Overall, Dr Campbell sees Wegovy as just one tool within a wider holistic approach to weight loss. "Wegovy has the potential to help many people who would benefit from weight loss. But short-term fixes are exactly that: short-term. I can anticipate helping some of my patients lose weight with Wegovy, but only if they are committed to the journey that's needed for life-changing weight loss, and they're supported along the way."

In Dr C's expert opinion...

"I think Wegovy may have a role to play, but unless a patient has the motivation and support to make long-lasting lifestyle changes, any benefit will be short-lived. It's not a quick fix, and it's certainly not an alternative to long-term lifestyle change, including mindfulness, reduced calorie intake, and increased physical activity."

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