Who’s responsible for tackling obesity?

What’s happening? Type 2 diabetes drug semaglutide could be a potential “game-changer” in tackling obesity, a University College London study has found. Researchers randomised 1,961 obese or overweight adults to receive a weekly injection of semaglutide, or a placebo, for 68 weeks. The semaglutide group had an average weight loss of 15.3 kg and a body mass index reduction of -5.54 compared to placebo, with results of 2.6 kg and -0.92, respectively. The semaglutide group also displayed reductions in risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Semaglutide has been submitted for approval to treat obesity in the UK, EU and US. (UCL, The New England Journal of Medicine)

The food industry under pressure – The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted just how serious obesity is, as the condition is associated with more severe symptoms and increased risk of death from the disease. It’s against this backdrop that responsible investor group ShareAction is leading a bid to pressure Tesco – the UK’s leading supermarket – to sell healthier foods and to reveal its share of sales made from such products.

The rise of cheap processed foods and fast foods has undoubtedly contributed to the obesity crisis, so it’s correct that the food industry should play a role in solving it. Food companies are facing increasing restrictions, for example, on where and when they are allowed to advertise products that are high in fat, sugar and salt. There’s even been calls for high-sugar products to be wrapped in plain packaging – similar to cigarettes – to make them less appealing, especially to children.

What can it do? Rather than attempting to deal with these pressures, food companies should take action from within. This could be by changing product lines, promoting healthier options and even contributing to anti-obesity initiatives. Not only would this benefit public health, but it would also make them more attractive to investors and potential customers.

Further thought – Obesity is linked to a wide range of other serious health conditions, many of which can be fatal. Global rates of the condition almost tripled between 1975 and 2016 and they are still increasing. It’s predicted that 51% of the US population alone will be obese by 2030. While there’s been many public health campaigns attempting to encourage people to improve their diet and make behavioural changes, these aren’t always successful for a variety of reasons, such as stigmatising messages and ideologising thinness.

Semaglutide, which works by reducing hunger and increasing feelings of fullness, is a promising prospect for tackling the crisis. It should be noted, however, that people taking it will still need to commit to making behavioural changes such as following a healthier diet and increasing physical activity.

Further reading:

Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences, CDC

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Nicola Watts

Health Care Curator

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