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Weight loss medications for obesity: Boon or a bane?

While weight loss medications can assist in the battle against obesity, their use should be considered alongside lifestyle changes like a balanced diet and regular exercise. It's also important to remember that these drugs are not suitable for everyone and come with potential risks.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: March 04, 2024 14:50 IST
World Obesity Day 2024
Image Source : FREEPIK Know whether weight loss medication is good for health or not.

Obesity, characterised by excessive fat accumulation that presents a health risk, is a significant concern in India. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, about 135 million Indians are affected by obesity. Rapid urbanisation, sedentary lifestyles, and changing dietary patterns have contributed to a surge in obesity rates across the country.

According to Dr Vikas Singhal, Senior Consultant, GI Surgery, GI Oncology and Bariatric Surgery, Gastrosciences, Medanta, Gurugram, obesity is not merely a cosmetic concern; it significantly impacts an individual's health and quality of life. Beyond the physical strain of excess weight, obesity increases the risk of various chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. Moreover, obesity can exacerbate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, further compromising overall well-being.

Weight Loss Medications in India

To combat obesity, many individuals turn to weight loss medications. In India, several medications are commonly prescribed to aid weight loss efforts. Orlistat, Phentermine, and Sibutramine are among the most frequently used drugs for this purpose. While Orlistat inhibits fat absorption, Phentermine and Sibutramine work as appetite suppressants, helping individuals consume fewer calories. The emergence of newer weight loss drugs, such as Semaglutide, has garnered significant attention in recent times. Although primarily approved for diabetes treatment, the oral form of Semaglutide is also utilised for weight loss and is now available in India. Furthermore, the once-weekly injection variant of Semaglutide, highly popular abroad, is slated for release in 2025, alongside other promising drugs like Tirzepatide.

Weight loss medications in India primarily target different aspects of metabolism and appetite regulation to induce weight loss. Orlistat, for instance, blocks the action of lipase enzymes in the intestine, thereby reducing the absorption of dietary fats. Phentermine stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, curbing appetite and promoting a feeling of fullness. Sibutramine works by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to reduced appetite.

Efficacy and Safety of Weight Loss Drugs: Boon or Bane?

While these drugs can contribute to significant weight loss, their long-term effectiveness remains uncertain. One prominent concern is their high cost, which may pose a barrier to accessibility for many patients. Additionally, there's a significant weight issue once the drug is discontinued, rendering the long-term effectiveness of these medications uncertain. Furthermore, the potential long-term side effects of these drugs remain unknown, underscoring the importance of careful consideration before committing to prolonged usage.

Ultimately, the decision to opt for these medications rests with the individual, weighing the potential benefits against the associated risks and costs. While these drugs may offer promising results in the short term, their long-term implications necessitate further research and consideration. Patients must engage in informed discussions with their healthcare providers to make well-informed choices regarding their weight loss journey.

Comprehensive Strategies for Combatting Obesity

In addition to weight loss medications, several other measures play a crucial role in combating obesity effectively. Lifestyle modifications, such as adopting a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods and sugary beverages, are fundamental. Regular physical activity is also essential, with guidelines recommending at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week for adults. 

Behavioural therapy and counselling can help individuals address underlying issues related to eating habits and emotional triggers, promoting sustainable weight loss. Furthermore, community-based interventions, policy changes to promote healthy environments, and public awareness campaigns are vital components of a comprehensive approach to tackling obesity at the societal level. By addressing obesity from multiple angles, including medication when appropriate, we can better support individuals in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, ultimately improving overall health outcomes.

Remember, weight loss medication usage should always be under the guidance of a healthcare professional. In the fight against obesity, a holistic approach encompassing lifestyle changes, medical intervention, and societal support is the most effective strategy.

ALSO READ: World Obesity Day 2024: Know about the hidden connection between obesity and mental health

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