Health & Lifestyle

DR MAX PEMBERTON: It’s not cheating to use weight loss jabs – they literally save lives

There is no doubt about it: as a society we are groaning under the weight of obesity. The World Health Organization has warned that two-thirds of women and three-quarters of men will be overweight by 2030.

We are facing an ‘enormous’ crisis if it’s not tackled, says the organisation. By the end of the decade, obesity will be a bigger cause of liver failure than alcohol

It is estimated that obesity currently costs the country £58billion a year. To put that in perspective, that’s just under a third of the entire NHS budget. The situation is escalating out of control.

In the past few months, however, there has been a glimmer of hope: semaglutide. 

This medication has actually been around for several years under the trade name Ozempic. It was developed for diabetes and is similar to a naturally occurring hormone in the body.

Weight loss jabs Ozempic and Wegovy - types of semaglutide medications - reduce appetite and stave off cravings

Weight loss jabs Ozempic and Wegovy – types of semaglutide medications – reduce appetite and stave off cravings

It would be injected once a week to stabilise a patient’s blood sugar levels — but researchers also noticed it helped people lose weight

A very similar treatment also containing semaglutide — under the name Wegovy — has now been licensed to treat obesity.

The drug acts like a hormone in the brain which causes people to feel less hungry and slows the clearing of food from the stomach — spurring weight loss. 

Along with others currently being developed, it offers real hope to those who have struggled with weight loss. I know, because I’ve seen it first-hand.

For many years I worked in an eating disorder service, and part of my job was assessing patients with obesity who were waiting for bariatric surgery, most often a gastric band or bypass to make them feel full after eating much less than they were used to. 

Most weren’t eligible, however, and aside from surgery, there was little we could offer them.

Instead we’d have to discharge 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 about it and yet when they asked for help, the NHS came up short.

Then, a few years ago, patients started telling me about semaglutide. Some started sourcing it privately and I have to say the results were startling. 

Since then I’ve had more and more patients taking the drug, and it’s sometimes been quite emotional seeing patients on their weight loss journey with it.

People who have struggled with their weight all their life have shed the pounds apparently effortlessly. They simply don’t feel particularly hungry and don’t crave the food they used to. It’s been a game-changer.

Dr Max has 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 medications

Dr Max has 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 medications

This doesn’t mean it’s a panacea though. There’s no doubt that it’s not right for everyone. 

It doesn’t address people’s underlying relationship with food. Some people use food for psychological reasons, and of course there’s no way an injection will help with this. These people will continue to need emotional and psychological support. 

As with any medication, it also has side effects. The most common — nausea, diarrhoea, constipation and tiredness — tend to improve over time, but it varies from person to person and some might not be able to tolerate them.

But for many people who have battled with their weight it really does seem to help them shed the pounds. It can give them the kick-start they need to address their weight and take up regular exercise and healthy eating. I think for many it will be a life-saver, literally. 

There are obstacles to its widespread use at the moment. It’s hard to get hold of, and expensive, and this has pushed desperate people to buy it illegally over the internet.

That means it’s unlikely to have been stored or shipped at the correct temperature (it needs to be kept at a steady cold temperature) and some batches have even been discovered to be fake, meaning people are risking their lives.

Indeed, there have already been reports of two people in the US dying and three being hospitalised after taking fake versions of the medication. And in some cases doctors are proving resistant to its use too. 

This has surprised and saddened me, but I think it’s because there’s still a lot of stigma around obesity and some view these injections as ‘cheating’, as though those who are overweight need to suffer in their pursuit of a healthy weight.

For many people who have battled with their weight injections like Ozempic really do seem to help them shed the pounds (Stock Image)

For many people who have battled with their weight injections like Ozempic really do seem to help them shed the pounds (Stock Image)

Yet we don’t apply this logic to other problems people have — no one says the same about nicotine replacement therapy for smokers, for example.

I am so convinced that this medication offers hope to those struggling with being overweight, I have 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 which is reviewed by a prescriber once submitted and, if the patient is eligible, Wegovy is then delivered directly to their door. 

I’ve been working on it in the evenings and weekends and will keep working full-time in the NHS when we launch fully in a few weeks, but I hope it will mean patients can get the drug at reasonable cost wherever they are in the country.

For years there have been public health campaigns encouraging people to eat a healthy diet and to exercise. But despite all this, the rates of obesity have risen. 

What we are doing simply isn’t working. This new medication is, I passionately believe, the future of weight loss.

Dame Maureen has shown us the true meaning of bravery

Dame Maureen Lipman, 77, spoke out about anti-Semitism in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Israel

Dame Maureen Lipman, 77, spoke out about anti-Semitism in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Israel

Coronation Street star Dame Maureen Lipman was reportedly allocated a bodyguard on set earlier this month after she spoke out about anti-Semitism in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Israel.

What have we come to that a 77-year-old woman needs to have protection simply because she has had the courage to stand up to prejudice and racism? I have been utterly horrified to hear of Jewish people scared to walk the streets in the UK for fear of attacks.

How have we allowed our moral compass to become so warped?

Thank goodness for people such as Dame Maureen.

While evil prevails when good men (and women) do nothing, it can’t have been easy for her to put her head above the parapet like that, knowing that by doing so she would make herself a target for further vilification and hatred.

I emailed her to say how she had my support and how brave I thought she was to make a stand. She replied, saying that she didn’t feel brave. She felt jumpy, she said, but knew that silence was worse. This got me thinking.

People often feel that in order to be considered brave, you have to feel no fear when you do or say something. But this is wrong. To my mind, feeling afraid but speaking out anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do is real bravery.

Using cannabis raises risks of heart attack, heart failure and stroke by up to a third, two major studies show. This is in addition to all the other risks the drug carries. 

So why are we turning a blind eye to cannabis while clamping down on vaping and nitrous oxide which, although not risk-free, pose less of a threat to health? 

Women in the UK are the biggest female binge drinkers in the developed world, international data has shown. Some of the worst offenders are educated, middle class, middle-aged women. 

What’s going on here? Let’s remember that this generation of women were young in the early 1990s — the era of the ladette. 

One of the ways doctors screen for alcohol problems is by the CAGE questionnaire. 

Have you ever felt you needed to cut down your drinking? Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? Have you ever felt guilty about drinking? Do you need to drink first thing in the morning? Answering yes to two or more means there could be a problem. 

The Runner's Advent Calendar contains gifts such as recovery snacks, running socks and hydration packs

The Runner’s Advent Calendar contains gifts such as recovery snacks, running socks and hydration packs

DR MAX PRESCRIBES… 

Runner’s Advent Calendar 

Designed for anyone from a keen runner to the occasional jogger, this advent calendar encourages you to keep fit even as the evenings close in and it gets colder. 

Containing things such as recovery snacks, running socks and hydration packs, it’s got everything a runner needs. 


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