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Weight Loss Pens: a certain way to lose weight or an ineffective gimmick?

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • People who are overweight are at risk of developing serious health conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease, as well as having a significantly increased risk of cancer.
  • In addition to diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications, weight loss medication is another method that is popular among those with little time to exercise. However, such drugs can result in side effects, including elevated heart rate, insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, addiction and a risk of putting the weight back on once the course is complete.
  • There are now weight loss pens available that can be injected into the skin and used alongside other diet management measures and an exercise regime. These pens have been found to help some people from sample groups lose from 5% to over 10% of their body weight, as well as reduce their waist size by up to 8.2cm during the initial 2 months of use. However, weight loss pens are just one of many contributing factors that can play a part in helping people to lose weight.

Being obese is an unwanted side effect of our modern lifestyles for many people—especially women—because carrying excess body weight can lead to a loss of face, reduced self-esteem, and even depression in serious cases. This is why so many overweight people constantly look for ways to lose weight, such as fitness courses, specially-designed clothing, weight loss injections, liposuction procedures, surgery aimed at reducing waist size, and gastric band surgery. There are also a number of drugs available that help people lose weight, including appetite suppressants and lipid-lowering enzyme inhibitors.

What is meant by obesity?

Being overweight or obese can be analyzed through a person’s body mass index (BMI), which is calculated using their height and weight (click here to calculate your BMI score).

BMI
International Standard (Europe)

BMI
Asian Standard (Asia)
Definition
< 18.5 < 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 18.5-22.9 Normal
25-29.9 23-24.9 Overweight level 1
30-34.9 25-29.9 Overweight level 2
35-39.9 ≥ 30 Overweight level 3
≥ 40 Overweight level 4

Obesity is life-threatening

People who are obese have an excess of fat stored in their body and organs, which impacts various bodily systems and increases their risk of developing serious health conditions, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes, owing to chronic inflammation resulting from fat cells impacting the function of insulin hormones that are produced in the pancreas (responsible for controlling glucose levels). This can lead to insulin resistance, which causes heightened insulin levels that inhibit the body’s ability to break down fats, thus causing a build-up around the abdomen and increased potential for future complications associated with diabetes and obesity.
  • Dyslipidemia causes increased levels of triglycerides, free fatty acids and B type lipoproteins (ApoB), which leads to inflammation of blood vessels and can result in coronary heart disease.
  • Coronary heart disease can come about due to heightened glucose or lipid levels, which cause inflammation or blockages in arteries that decrease their flexibility. This, in turn, leads to high blood pressure and an increased workload placed on the heart as it beats faster to maintain circulation. All of this significantly increases the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke.
  • Chronic obesity can occur as excess fat cells stimulate production of a chemical associated with inflammation called C-reactive protein (C-RP), which latches onto leptin hormones that are responsible for telling us when we are full. This leads to a large-scale C-RP leptin complex, as those chemicals are unable to pass into the brain, and a resistance to leptin. If excess fat cells continue to be present, the leptin hormone—or the ‘feeling full’ hormone—will be produced in greater amounts, as will the leptin resistant chemicals, leading to overeating and difficulties feeling full.
  • Cancers, such as colon cancer, breast cancer (among post-menopausal women), endometrial cancer, kidney cancer and esophageal cancer, are up to 25-30% more prevalent among the overweight and groups who do not exercise regularly. Nevertheless, losing a mere 5-10% of body weight has been shown to significantly improve a person’s overall health.

It is easy to conclude that obesity is a major cause behind a number of health disorders, including diabetes, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and even the potential onset of cancer.

Currently available weight loss drugs 

In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and making lifestyle changes aimed at losing weight, many people now turn to drugs, especially if they do not have the time necessary to get fit or if they are seeking a shortcut. Such drugs include appetite suppressants and lipid-lowering enzyme inhibitors. However, there are often dangerous side effects associated with the use of drugs designed to suppress appetite, including an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties, insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, addiction and yo-yoing weight.

Can a weight loss pen really help to combat obesity?

The unlikely story of how Extendin-4 was discovered begins with a news reporter who was making a program about the Gila monster—a venomous lizard native to South America and deserts around the world. After the reporter was bitten by the creature, he developed hepatitis, nausea and a loss of appetite, which eventually led to the discovery of Extendin-4 in the animal’s saliva. The chemical is similar to the substance GLP-1 in humans—digestive system-based hormones that reduce glucose levels—which were initially developed as a form of treatment for diabetes. These drugs were capable of carefully managing blood glucose levels and preventing hypoglycemic episodes by decreasing accumulated glucose levels (HbA1C). Treatment with these drugs was effective for many people who enjoyed eating sweet foods as it was shown to be able to reduce obesity among diabetics by at least 10%.

Additionally, in 2014 the United States Food and Drink Administration accredited a new drug called liraglutide which can be administered via a daily injection. The drug is designed to be used alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise regime, with clinical studies finding that 3.0mg of liraglutide helped both diabetic and non-diabetic obese patients (BMI scores of over 30kg/m2) to lose weight. Overweight patients (BMI scores of over 27kg/m2) who also suffered with associated health disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidemia, were generally found to experience unwanted symptoms affecting the digestive system after the 20th week of taking the medication—including nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite—meaning their overall appetites were reduced. The drugs were also found to have no effect on brain function, nor were they found to be addictive in any way whatsoever.

Understanding weight loss pens

Terms of use

Liraglutide medication has been developed into a pen-shaped receptacle with a tiny needle on the end, which can be injected into the abdomen, thigh or upper arm of patients, in order to help them with their long-term goal of losing weight. A study was carried out using the medicine alongside a placebo on a sample group of 3,731 people, some of whom were non-diabetically obese (BMI scores of over 30kg/m2), and some who were overweight (BMI scores of over 27kg/m2) and suffering with associated health disorders, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and dyslipidemia. After the 56-week study was completed, it was found that those who received the medication lost from 5% to more than 10% of their bodyweight over the initial 2 months, while the drug also helped the sample group lose up to 8.2cm of their waist size. Additionally, it was found that only 1.9% of those studied experienced weight gain following the completion of their course of drugs.

Mechanism of action

This type of drug resembles the hormone glucagon. Once the medication enters the bloodstream, the following actions occur:

  • Signals are sent to the brain, leading to reduced feelings of hunger.
  • Stomach contractions decrease, so food remains in the stomach longer and the need to replenish food stores is reduced.
  • The pancreas is stimulated into producing insulin to maintain glucose level balance, although this does not increase the risk of a hypoglycemic episode because the drug becomes active when food is consumed.

There are some potential side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain, bowel movements or constipation, but these do not occur in all cases. The dosage of the medication can be adjusted after the first week of use.

The drug is not suitable for use in patients with a family history of thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism, those under the age of 18, people suffering with pancreatitis, pregnant women or breastfeeding women, the elderly, those currently undergoing certain forms of diabetes treatment, and those with pancreas or kidney disorders.

Weight loss pens are just one of many contributing factors that can play a part in helping people to lose weight. Equally important are eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest, not sleeping too late, and avoiding stress, all of which can help people achieve their weight loss goals.

When trying to lose weight, it is crucial that we understand our bodies in terms of what are the true causes of any irregularities. There are times when improper changes to one’s diet and exercise regimen can lead to failure and a physical breakdown. Fortunately, Samitivej Hospital now offers tailored physical examinations available to obese people, including detailed genetic analysis regarding the cause of their condition and comprehensive physical analysis of their situation. These tests are undertaken under the strict guidance of our expert team of doctors and nutritionists, who are ready to offer advice and guidance throughout every step of your healthcare journey.


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