The question of whether obesity is a disease has been the subject of debate within the medical community since it was defined. In 1998, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was among one the first major institutions to categorize obesity as a disease, setting a precedent that would spark widespread discussion, but not necessarily widespread agreement (1). The American Medical Association’s (AMA) Committee on Science and Public Health presented a counter-argument in 2012, contending that obesity did not meet the medical criteria for a disease state. The panel stated that there was insufficient data to describe obesity as a disease and that it does not fit the medical definition of a disease state, as “it has no symptoms, and it’s not always harmful” (2). Despite these counter-arguments, the AMA officially recognized obesity as a “disease state requiring treatment and prevention efforts” in 2013, a decision that was somewhat unexpected given the stance of their Committee.
With current estimates stating 38% of the world’s population now meet the criteria for being overweight or obese, the question of how best to address obesity becomes ever more pressing. Regardless of whether it is officially classified as a disease, it is clear that obesity is a significant public health issue that requires increasing attention and efforts towards prevention and treatment.
Controversy over how obesity should be managed drives further debate among experts, with most agreeing that the best long-term solution is to alter one’s eating and exercise habits. However if this proves ineffective or unfeasible for patients, medical intervention is often required. There are a wide array of options to treat obesity, each with their own varying long-term effectiveness and adverse effects. Some examples include intermittent fasting, restricted caloric diets, electrical stimulation to the abdomen with an implanted device, and bariatric surgery, which surgically adjusts an individual’s digestive system (3).
While no weight loss solution will be perfect for everyone, a recent and emerging weight loss medication has been advertised and discussed just about everywhere. From billboard ads to TikTok hashtags, Semaglutide, also known as Ozempic and Wegovy, is the weight loss solution everyone seems to be talking about. In this blog, we join the conversation about this controversial weight loss medication, discussing its mechanism of action, intended and off-label use, recent rise to popularity, and currently known long-term effects.