News Release

Editorial: Turning the tide on obesity?

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

In an Editorial, Cynthia Bulik and Andrew Hardaway highlight the recent advances in medical treatments for obesity and weight loss. “With the emergence of new, highly effective weight-loss drugs, might the ‘fat decades’ become a closed chapter in the history of public health?” ask the authors. The “obesity epidemic” is a global health concern, with more than a billion people affected by obesity and many more overweight. Although various environmental, biological, and behavioral factors have been implicated in obesity, few consistently effective treatments exist for the disease. Recently, however, new weight-loss drugs, like glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists, originally developed for diabetes, have shown promise in promoting weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing satiety signals from the gut to the brain. However, these drugs are expensive and can potentially create and widen health disparities as obesity disproportionally affects marginalized racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. Moreover, weight regain is common once the medication is discontinued, functionally rendering them “forever” drugs with currently unknown potential long-term side effects. “Tackling these issues is essential to prevent unintended consequences brought on by the meteoric success of these drugs,” write Bulik and Hardaway. “We are entering an era in which effective obesity treatments exist for the first time.”

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