Good news for obese as scientists stumble upon a weight-loss drug!

If careful monitoring finds no major side-effect, the drugs could help humanity win its long and futile fight against flab. The new drug is generating excitement among the rich and the beautiful.

A sudden surge in deaths due to heart attack post Covid pandemic has baffled clinicians, policymakers and the common men equally with experts still not sure if and how these deaths are correlated with Covid. Most recently, actress, model and the first winner of the Miss Universe pageant, Sushmita Sen, speaking on her Instagram page during a live chat session announced that she had a “massive heart attack” with 95% blockage in one of her main arteries.

Amidst so much bad news around with celebrities making a beeline to gyms to shed weight to maintain a zero figure, there is some good news about scientists stumbling upon a weight-loss drug that actually seems to work. Or rather, a class of drugs called GLP-1 receptor agonists, sold under brand names such as Wegovy and Ozempic. TikTok influencers and celebrities are obsessed with the injections for weight. Eventually, the beneficiaries will be billions of people whose excess weight has made them unhealthy.

Obesity the culprit

Obesity is no longer just a rich-country problem. By 2035 more than half the people on the planet will be overweight or obese, by one estimate. For now, the drugs are expensive, and their long-term effects are unknown. But competition—and bulk purchases by governments—will make them cheaper. And if careful monitoring finds no major side-effects, the drugs could help humanity win its long and hitherto futile fight against flab. 

The new type of drug is generating excitement among the rich and the beautiful. Just a jab a week, and the weight falls off! Celebrities swears by it; influencers sing its praises on TikTok; suddenly slimmer celebrities deny they have taken it. But the latest weight-loss drugs are no mere cosmetic enhancements. Their biggest beneficiaries will be not celebrities alone but billions of ordinary people around the world whose weight has made them unhealthy.

People, fed up with lugging huge frames around, have a history of heart diseases. As a result of Covid-19, many have become painfully aware of the risks the obesity entails. However, many find that efforts to lose weight through dieting and exercise had led them to nowhere.  Doctors suggest use of the injectable drug from Novo Nordisk, a Danish drug-maker, that is approved for type-2 diabetes but, as a fringe benefit, helps with weight loss, too. To start off, the price is heavy on pocket — about $1,000 a month — but may come down with increase in usage.

The news comes at a time when new studies have revealed that Covid infection has severely raised the risk of heart disease, especially among the younger age groups. A study based on the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs data, people who had contracted Covid face a substantially high risk of cardiovascular issues, including heart attack and stroke. These problems may also happen in people who had relatively mild Covid and have fully recovered from it.

In a recent study published in a journal, Nature, it was reported that people who recovered from severe Covid had extremely high risk of developing cardiac issues till a year later, including heart swelling and lung thromboembolism, which were up to 20-time higher than those uninfected.  A study at Yale University reported the presence of an excessive number of auto-antibodies in the people hospitalised with severe Covid. Most of these antibodies are against one’s own tissues and cells and can inadvertently attack the body tissues, including the heart, and weaken their architecture. The coronavirus enters through the ACE2 receptor found in organs and tissues such as the lungs, neurons, liver, kidney, intestine and also the heart and blood vessels. The clots may block the blood supply to vital organs like the heart or brain and cause heart attack or stroke, respectively.

Key findings

  • In the year before the pandemic, there were 143,787 heart attack deaths; within the first year of the pandemic, this number had increased by 14% to 164,096.
  • The excess in acute myocardial infarction-associated mortality has persisted throughout the pandemic, even during the most recent period marked by a surge of the presumed less-virulent Omicron variant.
  • Researchers found that although acute myocardial infarction deaths during the pandemic increased across all age groups, the relative rise was most significant for the youngest group, ages 25 to 44.
  • By the second year of the pandemic, the “observed” compared to “predicted” rates of heart attack death had increased by 29.9% for adults ages 25-44, by 19.6% for adults ages 45-64, and by 13.7% for adults age 65 and older.

What experts say

Dr Viveka Kumar, Principal Director & Chief of Cath Labs (Pan Max) – Cardiac Sciences says, “Recently, we have seen a lot of young people dying of acute heart attack and cardiac arrest in particular while doing physical activity like dancing, driving, at wedding ceremonies and all. Waves spurred by Omicron are lighter but they have got their own effect,” “Vaccine is not a complete answer yet because vaccines also led to certain side effects and caused cardiac events. There are people who have had only vaccines and within a week or a month’s time, we saw that a patient came down with a heart attack. Side effects of the vaccine are of lesser intensity but Covid infection is causing increased cardiovascular events especially cardiac arrest,” adds Dr Kumar.

Dr Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardiothoracic and Heart and Lung Transplant Surgery, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, says, “It’s now known that Covid causes widespread blood clots in small vessels of various body organs including the heart. It also causes inflammation of heart muscle called myocarditis”.

After Independence, India was struggling with drought, famine, and starvation which lead to malnutrition but in the past few decades, due to economic growth, an abundance of crops and a change in lifestyle, the country has developed another nutritional problem that is obesity.

According to the National Family Health Survey in the past 10 years, the number of obese people has doubled in the country. As per the survey, people having Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 25 kilograms per metre square have been considered obese. The prevalence of obesity is 12.6% in women and 9.3% in men. In other words, more than 100 million individuals are obese in India leading to high triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stroke and even cancer.