Ozempic is the new "miracle" drug on the market, although it's not a new drug, it's just a successful drug used for diabetes control that has been re-purposed for weight loss. It has enjoyed spectacular media headlines because of its endorsement by celebrities, especially with TicTok's documenting the weight loss - called body transformation - of celebrities having millions of viewers and even an endorsement from Elon Musk. This enthusiasm is justified because in Australia almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and its economic cost was estimated to be $11.8b in 2018. While it does have some side effects it has been a life changer, and perhaps life saver, for those with morbid obesity. Unfortunately, its newfound popularity with those just wanting to lose a few kilos has created a drug shortage that threatens the supply to diabetes sufferers.
It’s also highly controversial because the basic fundamental of health care is, or should be, based on the 16th-century thoughts of Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch philosopher and humanist who is attributed with the quote, "Prevention is better than cure."
And Ozempic, despite its action triggering a chemical repugnance to food that reduces calorie intake, is still a process that addresses the symptom and not the cause. This is not just nit-picking, the process that created this crisis was not only a cruel trick on humanity but one that became entrenched through the tacit support of governments. The relevantly sudden increase in body mass (BMI) can be documented by viewing images of people taken from the early days of photography. In those images, most people appear what we might call skinny, but they were what humans had always been and perhaps what we should be. By following the time scale these photos reveal changes that were largely the result of diet. Most noticeable was an increase in height of adolescents which came from the better diet available after WW2 restrictions but around the 1970's weight increases become apparent.
The causes for this sudden weight change and its associated health problems has been the subject of a great deal of research - one that was hampered by conflicting views of health professionals and spurious information. Researchers were also confronted with different situations that existed in nations like Egypt, Mexico, the US, and Australia and too often targeted causes, like lack of exercise, that were being promoted by organizations with vested interests. It took almost 30 years to debunk the argument that being overweight was caused by lack of exercise but in that time fat people became targeted as lazy and the word "fat" became an expletive. If this wasn't enough for overweight people there was also an increased difficulty in exercising compounded by the mechanization of work and the increased availability - sometimes a necessity - of car transport.
The resultant loss of general fitness was to some extent obscured by the super-fit athletes that kept breaking world records and succeeding in seemingly impossible achievements. But the reality became apparent when defense forces around the world, (North Korea excepted) had to lower the fitness standards for entry into the armed services. Top brass became alarmed when new recruits couldn't fit into tanks or planes and one US general remarked that the war in Iraq was possibly the only conflict where combatants put on weight. But what also happened was the creation of new industries, there were enough diet books produced to fill a library, exercise gyms flourished, personal trainers proliferated, new clothing sizes were introduced and junk foods replaced healthy ones. (1,033 MacDonalds in Australia as of March 2023.) Bad for your health, but so good for the economy that our government rejected health experts' pleas to reduce the sugar content of soft drinks
The outstanding "success" of the marketing campaign that produced this economic boost was the result of considerable research by Big Food companies who used chemists, nutrition scientists, behavioral biologists, food technologists and advertising experts. Its actions were investigated many times including by New York Times journalist Michael Moss who spent three-and-a-half years interviewing hundreds of current and former food industry insiders. He concluded that junk food is a type of narcotic and that by deliberately manipulating three key ingredients – salt, sugar and fat, "called bliss point", that acted much like drugs, the food and drink industry has created an elastic formula for a never-ending procession of lucrative products. There is also anecdotal evidence that diets high in these products produce can destroy the appeal of the more subtle-tasting unprocessed foods, and instead create a demand for even more of the bliss foods.
In the US there is a vast surplus of corn, which is used to make high-fructose corn syrup which is cheaper and sweeter than sugar. And as one expert put it: "The sweeter they make it, the more we buy." Fructose in corn syrup is highly efficient at metabolizing into fat and suppresses the hormone leptin, which provides the full feeling to the brain. It is a recipe for addiction, good for no one apart from those who sold the product.
In Mexico, a growing population has made safe drinking water increasingly scarce in towns where some neighborhoods have running water just a few times a week. So, many residents drink Coke - up to two litres per day - produced by a local bottling plant. The beverage can be easier to find than bottled water and is almost as cheap with the result that Mexico passed the United States as the most obese country (not including Pacific islands) in the world. For adults, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is 39.7 and 29.9%, respectively. Egypt is not far behind but hardly any countries are immune from what is a preventable disease.