Fitness expert and television personality Jillian Michaels is speaking out against using the diabetes drug Ozempic off-label for weight loss. Michaels warns of potentially dangerous long-term side effects and urges caution about the growing trend of using Ozempic and similar medications for cosmetic fat reduction.
Background on Jillian Michaels and Her Health Advocacy
Jillian Michaels, 49, is best known as the tough-love trainer on NBC’s weight loss competition show “The Biggest Loser,” which ran from 2004-2016. She has also authored several popular diet and fitness books and launched a successful line of workout videos and equipment.
Michaels has a history of speaking out on controversial health topics:
In 2020, she faced criticism for commenting that the keto diet was a “bad plan” for long-term nutrition. Michaels stood by her remarks, citing impacts on heart health and nutrient balance.
Last year, Michaels sounded alarms about celebrities and influencers promoting appetite suppressants and weight loss supplements with little proven health benefit or FDA oversight.
Now in early 2024 Michaels is raising fresh concerns – this time over prescription medications like semaglutide (brand name Ozempic) fueling an unhealthy focus on rapid cosmetic weight loss among the public.
Ozempic Trend Raises Alarms
Originally approved for treating type 2 diabetes, Ozempic and other GLP-1 drugs like Wegovy manipulate hormones to dampen appetite. In recent years Ozempic has developed a reputation for dramatic weight loss capabilities in non-diabetic patients.
Use has skyrocketed, with prescriptions up over 1,000% in 2022 alone. Michaels worries this off-label use for physical appearance is normalizing relying on medications rather than lifestyle change for weight control. The trend has even spawned the term “Ozempic face” to describe the gaunt, aged appearances some display as side effects.
Michaels highlighted several areas of concern around using Ozempic primarily for cosmetic fat loss:
Risk of serious side effects
- Nausea, vomiting, gallstones, pancreatic inflammation and damage
- Potential for long-term impacts like liver injury not yet characterized
Promotes unhealthy fixations on weight
- Mental health and self-image may suffer if weight rebounds after stopping medication
- Shows medications as “easy fix” rather than emphasizing holistic health
Lack of formal approval and oversight
- Minimal research on benefits and harms for non-diabetic weight loss
- Informal prescribing through “loopholes” avoids FDA monitoring
Medical Experts Echo Warnings About Unknown Long-Term Effects
Endocrinologists and bariatric physicians interviewed agreed with many aspects of Michaels’ concerns. Dr. Imani Lateef, an obesity medicine specialist, explained that despite profound appetite suppression, semaglutide does not teach healthy nutritional or lifestyle habits needed to sustain weight loss.
“There is very little known on the long-term efficacy and safety of using Ozempic for weight management,” said Dr. Lateef. “We need to see controlled studies before endorsing wide use of medications that alter GI hormones.”
Dr. Frank Walker, who treats diabetes patients cautioned:
“Rapid weight changes stress nearly all organ systems. Though tempting for those desperate to lose weight, non-diabetics using Ozempic are taking significant health risks with little concrete benefit.”
Public Fascination with Quick-Fix Weight Loss Continues
In contrast to the serious warnings from Michaels and medical experts, public enthusiasm for Ozempic as a short-cut to weight loss remains extremely high. Mentions of “Ozempic” and “Wegovy” exploded on social media over 2023, with over 4 million posts tagged #ozempic on Instagram and TikTok.
Unofficial “Ozempic fan” accounts share striking before-and-after images and encourage followers to find doctors who will prescribe off-label. Various methods to obtain samples and avoid insurance barriers are also promoted.
A sampling of recent public social media posts reflects fascination with rapid results despite possible side effects:
| Username | Post Text |
|@missfit30| Got my hands on #ozempic and already down 8 lbs in 5 days! No more carb cravings is life changing 🙌|
|@keto_momma|Started #ozempic 3 weeks ago and seeing awesome results already. Stomach issues suck but will be SO worth it!|
|@beachbodyboss| Hawaii ready thanks to #Wegovy! Bikini confident for the first time in years thanks to this magic stuff 💉 😍|
With celebrity use fueling interest and prescription rates accelerating, the Ozempic diet craze shows no signs of slowing down. Michaels and medical groups continue working to raise awareness that despite enthused public reception, risks likely outweigh benefits for healthy individuals using GLP-1 based medications to lose small amounts of weight primarily for appearance reasons. They emphasize such drugs should be prescribed cautiously based on a full health assessment, not frivolously doled out “off-label” at demand.
What Comes Next? Likely Continued Strong Demand Despite Uncertainties
In the wake of Michaels’ high-profile criticisms, public demand for semaglutide and similar medications is unlikely to abate soon. However, physicians may grow more reluctant to casually prescribe for mild cosmetic weight loss purposes as warnings about long-term safety mount. Legal liability around known side effects but unquantified risks also worry some doctors.
The American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) will hold emergency panel discussions next month to formally review guidelines around GLP-1 based medications used for non-diabetic patients. Policy recommendations expected to be more conservative around qualifying health factors and quality of life criteria. Similar reevaluation of off-label prescription precedence underway at FDA and in obesity medicine societies.
Increased protocols should curb
loopholes allowing widespread recreational use, but unlikely to impact black market access if strong public interest persists. Cases of counterfeit formulations and sharing/reselling of medications likely to arise if obtaining prescriptions legally becomes more stringent.
Beyond regulatory issues, the core controversy lit by Michaels boils down to an unsettled public debate – are the risks of experimental medication use justified to combat societal biases against obesity? Or is normalizing drugs for cosmesis enabling unnecessary harm without addressing stigma roots? This complex dialogue around risks, ethics and public perceptions of health is sure to continue playing out in media and medical spheres.
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