Are the New Weight Loss Drugs the Real Deal or Snake Oil?

April 01, 2024

Are the New Weight Loss Drugs the Real Deal or Snake Oil?

Before we start going over the 5 reasons why the new weight loss drugs are either the Real Deal or Snake Oil? Let's look at what these drugs are - they are called GLP-1s. GLP-1s drugs mimic the action of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. When blood sugar levels rise after someone eats, these drugs stimulate the body to produce more insulin. The extra insulin helps lower blood sugar levels.GLP-1s appear to help curb hunger. These drugs will also slow the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. The result of lower blood sugar levels and slower movement of food causes you to feel full faster and longer, so you eat less. We have to think of these drugs as a tool for better health just like Bariatric surgery.

Let's look at the 5 reasons.

  1. Better Overall Health | Do we have better overall because of just losing weight? No, overall health takes into account many factors. Just looking at the physical aspects of overall health. These drugs do not help in areas of physical health such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance or strength, and flexibility. The only thing that the drugs truly help is your body's fat ratio compared to muscle and bone. This is called a reduction in Body Mass Index. A reduction in body mass index is the only area of overall health that the drug effects. The other health benefits are only by-products of fat reduction or a reduction in body mass index.
  2. Resting Metabolic Rate or Basal Metabolic Rate Decreases | The main reason people take these drugs is to decrease food consumption leading to weight loss. These drugs do a great job of this in the short term. But why does this not last? This weight loss is accomplished by a combination of fat loss as well as lean body mass loss. Up to 40% of the weight people lose when taking GLP-1 agonists comes from lean body mass loss, which includes muscle. If your lean body mass decreases so does your resting metabolic rate. Which in turn causes you to gain weight once you are off these drugs and resume your normal eating habits. Your weight will also start to increase after about 5 years even if you are still on the maintenance dosage of these medicines. Your body will adapt to these drugs over time.
  3. Diet Changes | Is there one perfect diet out there- NO. Everyone has their likes and dislikes But overconsumption and poor diet are the problems for most people. So you can do the low-carb diet, keto diet, Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet, Vegan diet, Dash diet, or the Whole 30 diet. No matter what diet you choose, go with it and be successful. Just remember portion control is the biggest key in any type of diet. These drugs will help with portion control and make you feel fuller longer. But do not address the root cause of the problem - overconsumption and/or a poor diet.
  4. Exercise - Challenge yourself | Exercise is essential for better overall health. People do not exercise for many reasons. They say they do not have time or they say they do not like to exercise. As well as when people are heavy they do want to exercise because it hurts. But exercise is essential in maintaining good cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and endurance as well as flexibility. Everyone has enjoyed exercise in their life at some point. Drive by an elementary school and watch recess. No matter if it's swinging on a swing, climbing the jungle gym, or playing kickball - it's a form of exercise. As adults exercise is a little different but the same. We can just walk(10,000 step challenge per day), we can do yoga, Pilates, swim, bike, aerobics, water aerobics, or just take a hike at Raven Run. Or take a fitness class at the YMCA, orangetheory fitness class, bootcamp class, boxing class, or a spin class. But it can be as simple as taking the furthest parking spot from the door at work or when going to the store. There is some form of exercise out there for everyone.
  5. Lifestyle Change | The question is whether you are willing to make lifestyle changes with the use of these new weight loss drugs. That will answer the question of - are these drugs the real deal or snake oil.

Are you going to change your diet? Are you going to stop overconsuming some types of foods? Are you going to start doing some type of exercise?

If you are going to make lifestyle changes then YES these drugs are the real deal. These drugs are a great tool to help in accomplishing these lifestyle changes you want to make for yourself.

If you are not willing to make these lifestyle changes then NO - these drugs are snake oil. These drugs work very well for their intended use. But these drugs only mimic hormone responses. At some point, the body will no longer respond to these drugs and you will start gaining weight again. So individuals who take these drugs will truly determine the worthiness of these drugs and their success over time.

To learn more about the author, Dan Volpe, MS, MA, ATC, click here:

Dan Volpe, MS, MA, ATC