Weight-loss medications are not effective without ‘nutrition therapy,’ experts say


People who are on weight-loss journeys should not rely solely on anti-obesity medications, according to a statement from a national nutrition association.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released the statement on March 4, which is World Obesity Day.

“The academy calls on the medical community, including pharmaceutical manufacturers of anti-obesity medications, obesity medicine providers and other health care practitioners specializing in obesity, to enhance the efficacy of these medications and maximize patient success rates by including a referral for medical nutrition therapy from a registered dietitian nutritionist alongside prescriptions for anti-obesity medications,” said Dr. Lauri Wright, PhD, president of the Chicago-based academy.

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“The anti-obesity medications alone will not end obesity unless they are combined with a collaborative, interprofessional approach that includes policy changes to reduce health inequity and disparity,” she also said in the release. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Wright emphasized the need to overcome obstacles to obesity treatment. 

Girl stepping on scale

People on weight-loss journeys should not rely solely on anti-obesity medications, a national nutrition association said on Monday, March 4. (iStock)

“We must reevaluate how we treat and prevent obesity by increasing access to nutritious food and for health insurance plans to cover nutrition services,” she said. 

“Medical nutrition therapy and intensive behavioral therapy provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist are both proven and cost-effective.”

Man with obesity

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released its statement on March 4, which is World Obesity Day. “We must reevaluate how we treat and prevent obesity by increasing access to nutritious food and for health insurance plans to cover nutrition services,” the president of the group said.  (iStock)

Semaglutides, a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists — including Ozempic (prescribed for diabetes management), Wegovy (prescribed for weight loss), Rybelsus (type 2 diabetes) and Saxenda (weight loss) — have been spiking in popularity in recent years.

The number of people in the U.S. using GLP-1 agonists for either diabetes or obesity reached 40 million in 2022, research has shown.

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In the academy’s statement, Wright referred to obesity as “a complex, chronic and progressive disease associated with serious complications and risk of mortality.”

“Recognizing World Obesity Day during National Nutrition Month is an opportunity to reevaluate how we best utilize anti-obesity medications to ensure that every patient has access to both lifestyle interventions and safe and effective medications that can improve the health of many adults in the U.S.,” she added.

Ozempic medication

Semaglutides, a class of medications known as GLP-1 receptor agonists — including Ozempic (prescribed for diabetes management), Wegovy (prescribed for weight loss), Rybelsus (type 2 diabetes) and Saxenda (weight loss) — have spiked in popularity in recent years. (Getty Images)

The academy said it plans to release a white paper in the spring, which will have detailed recommendations for lifestyle interventions.

Doctors share thoughts on the academy’s stance

Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, responded to the statement in a conversation with Fox News Digital.

“It is important that we put a spotlight on this huge burgeoning problem during World Obesity Day,” he said.

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“With over one billion obese people in the world and over a 40% obesity rate in the U.S., we have a huge problem.”

While Siegel is in agreement with the academy’s stance, he noted that not everyone with obesity needs to be on a weight-loss medication.

Nutritionist appointment

Obesity management requires a multi-pronged approach that combines proper nutrition and exercise — and takes psychosocial factors into account, one doctor told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

“The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is right to spotlight this, but wrong to imply that this shifting focus needs to include a prescription for an anti-obesity medication, presumably a semaglutide (Ozempic, Wegovy) or a tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Zepbound).”

Given the “tremendous shortage” of these drugs, Siegel warned that many diabetics who need them can’t get them.

“And at the same time, not everyone tolerates them well, and we don’t have a complete handle yet on long-term side effects,” the doctor noted.

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“I certainly think they are useful — and can think of many situations where they decrease risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer as well as the need for bariatric surgery — but they are surely not one size fits all and are mostly not first-line therapy.”

To promote healthy weight management, Siegel recommended increasing daily exercise and adopting a diet rich in vegetables and fiber and lower in “empty calories.”

“With over one billion obese people in the world and over a 40% obesity rate in the U.S., we have a huge problem.”

Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurologist and longevity expert, is a big proponent of semaglutide medications as a “highly potent” treatment in the fight against obesity.

“They are indeed the holy grail of modern-day medicine and will likely have a similar effect on worldwide health as the advent of antibiotics in the early 1900s,” he predicted to Fox News Digital. 

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Osborn said he agrees with the academy’s recommendation.

“The management of obesity is complex,” he told Fox News Digital. “It is best done through a multi-pronged approach that emphasizes proper nutrition, exercise and psychosocial factors. One cannot anticipate long-term and sustainable results without all three.”

Close up shot of a woman holding a plate of fresh green salad in the beautiful morning light. She's holding a fork and she's about to eat the vegetarian food. Healthy eating and diet concept. Shallow depth of field with focus on the fork.

To promote healthy weight management, a diet should be rich in vegetables and fiber, and lower in “empty calories,” said one physician.  (iStock)

Medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro have “changed the landscape of obesity management,” Osborn said. 

“By sending a robust satiety signal to the brain, these medications force the brain to ‘just say no,’ equating to a caloric deficit and weight loss,” he said. 

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“But absent exercise and a properly designed macronutrient-based food regimen with its full complement of protein, fats and carbohydrates, one may develop a relatively malnourished state … and a compromised immune system.”

For this reason, Osborn recommended that medications like Ozempic and Mounjaro should always be prescribed along with nutrition and exercise counseling. 

Fox News Digital reached out to Novo Nordisk, maker of Ozempic and Wegovy, for comment.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.



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