Eating disorder experts are concerned that the current focus on using diabetes drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro off-label for weight loss may increase the risk of vulnerable individuals to develop eating disorders or make them worse.
“My fear is that there is now a belief that anyone can and should achieve a certain body shape and size with the help of these medications, so there’s going to be an even greater drive towards a certain body type,” said Dr. Tracy Richmond, a clinician researcher trained in pediatric and adolescent medicine, and the director of the eating disorders program at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
According to ABC News, medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro were originally developed and FDA approved to treat Type 2 diabetes. But they can also cause weight loss and many doctors prescribe the drugs to treat obesity. While they are medically necessary for people with Type 2 diabetes and may be beneficial for people who have health problems associated with excess weight and obesity, using these drugs off-label indiscriminately may have serious consequences. Besides fueling the myth that being thin is a utopian state, it’s creating a risky environment for those with eating disorders, says Richmond.
Now celebrities and public figures are either taking these drugs or are rumored to be taking them. People who are not overweight but have the means to pay the out of-pocket price of around $1,000 monthly have also jumped on the bandwagon. Telehealth startups are advertising drugs to anyone who wants to lose weight with little medical supervision, says ABC News.
Recently, actress Jameela Jamil spoke out against the extreme weight loss trends evident at this year’s Oscar awards ceremony. The Good Place star slammed the film industry for promoting unattainable body sizes and pointed to the diabetes drugs as triggers for her anger, saying on Instagram that she was “deeply concerned” and “fears for everyone.”
“I have said what I have said about the potential harm of people using the diabetes medication for weight loss only,” she said. “I fear for everyone in the next few years. Rich people are buying this stuff off prescription for upwards of $1,000. It’s now a mainstream craze in Hollywood.” Jamil pointed out that the current craze has caused a supply shortage in the medication for people with diabetes who need the drug.
Dr. Kim Dennis, a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders and co-founder and CEO of SunCloud Health, says the focus on extreme thinness is a risky environment for people with eating disorders.
“It’s just another tool in the toolbox for self-destruction for people who have eating disorders,” she said. She added that she is seeing people in larger bodies, who suffer from these disorders but don’t fit the typical image, asking for the drug. Doctors may prescribe the weight loss pills for these individuals with high BMI’s thinking that weight loss will benefit their health.
“That’s for sure not the case if the person has an eating disorder,” she says.
According to ABC News, Richmond is concerned that people taking the drugs without a medical need may become fixated on weight loss and go on to develop an eating disorder. And because the drugs don’t cause permanent changes, people will gain weight back if they stop taking them. Richmond says this could further drive people into taking higher doses or become restrictive in their eating habits.
Both experts worry that the trend is taking away from the awareness that people can be healthy at any weight. For some individuals, losing weight can help lower diabetes risk or reduce high blood pressure. But other people at higher weight may not suffer from any health problems.
Dennis says that the focus on Ozempic and similar drugs makes her work harder.
“It reinforces all of those ideas about the thin ideal that are so deeply embedded in culture and the medical establishment and are not founded in truth, reality, or science,” she said.
For help or more information, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or visit NationalEatingDisorders.org.
© 2023 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.