April 15, 2024
Oprah Winfrey confesses she uses weight-loss medication following speculation about her being on Ozempic.

A celebrity posts a photo on social media or is photographed on a red carpet for the first time in a while, and there’s noticeable and considerable weight loss.

The reaction usually includes: “She looks great!” and “How did he do it?” But today, the conversation often shifts to whether or not the celeb used a weight-loss drug to slim down rapidly.

Oprah revealed her use of weight-loss medication in December, and it added fuel to the debate around the use of diabetes drugs for weight loss, which has become increasingly popular in the past year. She explained her disclosure by saying that she wants to remove the stigma around needing medication to sustain weight loss. There is a belief by many that using medication to lose weight is “cheating.”

Oprah Winfrey confesses she uses weight-loss medication following speculation about her being on Ozempic. (Photo: @oprah/Instagram)

Ozempic, which is a diabetes drug, and Wegovy are the most popular known weight-loss medications. They share the same main ingredient, semaglutide, but of the two, only Wegovy is FDA-approved for weight loss.

Zepbound, while perhaps lesser known, is the other FDA-approved medication for weight loss. Many diabetes drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro are prescribed off-label for weight loss. All of these drugs work by lowering blood sugar levels and slowing the emptying of the stomach. This makes the person feel full longer, leading them to eat less and subsequently lose weight.

If you are obese or overweight, your risk factors for diabetes and other conditions like heart disease, hypertension, strokes, asthma, sleep apnea, joint problems, and gallstones increase.

However, it is not the most reliable indicator of optimal health as your weight alone does not reveal your body fat, cholesterol levels and even blood pressure — which all together can indicate someone’s health.

Obesity: What the Numbers Say

Obesity is clinically defined using body mass index (BMI), the ratio of a person’s weight to height.

An adult is considered to be obese if their BMI is 30 or higher and overweight if their BMI is between 25 and 30.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2021, 33 percent of people 18 years and older in the United States are obese.

Non-Hispanic Black adults have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity at 49.9 percent. Severe obesity is more common in women compared to men, with prevalences of 11.5 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively. The prevalence of severe obesity in non-Hispanic Blacks is 13.8 percent, compared to 9.3 percent in whites. With these statistics, it is no surprise that weight-loss medications are becoming more mainstream.

Your Weight Doesn’t Tell the Full Story

In June 2022, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a statement saying that the use of BMI alone is an imperfect clinical measure because it does not directly assess body fat.

“Weight and BMI are important numbers to follow, however, both can be misleading,” cardiologist Dr. Tiffany C. Randolph said to Atlanta Black Star.

Randolph added that a person can have a weight or BMI that is within the target range, but if they are not eating healthy or exercising at least 150 minutes weekly, then they are still at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Karol Watson, professor of medicine and cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, also explained that “weight and BMI are not the best indicators of weight-related heart disease risk, as neither of these measures truly captures the amount of ‘fat’ in an individual body, and heart disease risk is more closely related to this amount.”

Watson said some better indicators are waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio. AMA also advises including additional factors such as visceral fat, body adiposity index, and genetic or metabolic factors.

Randolph said weight distribution matters as well. “Two people could be the same height and weight, but if one person carries more of their excess fat around their abdomen, they are at higher risk than a person who carries more fat in their hips and thighs.”

Women should aim for a waist circumference of less than 35 inches, and for men, less than 40 inches. 

Black women have the highest rates of obesity in the United States, with about 4 out of 5 Black women considered overweight or obese.

Oprah sharing her personal use of weight-loss medications can definitely move the needle. But it is not just Black female celebrities benefiting from these seemingly new wonder drugs. Tracy Morgan has credited weekly doses of Ozempic for maintaining his slim physique. Anthony Anderson, who is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, uses the diabetes drug Ozempic, which has the side benefit of weight loss.

But not all celebrities have been as revealing about whether they’ve taken prescription drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy to drop the pounds or they’ve felt compelled to set the record straight.

Recently, we’ve seen dramatic weight loss by celebrities like 50 Cent, who posted a video on Instagram last month saying his 43-pound weight loss is due to working out and not from Ozempic. Kelly Clarkson has also dropped pounds and shared that her change in diet and lifestyle is the reason.

It’s also worth considering that some celebrities may be deciding not to publicly disclose if they’ve used a weight-loss drug because they haven’t secured the bag — meaning they aren’t giving free publicity to a brand that could otherwise pay them for their endorsement.

Building Habits for Good Health

In addition to maintaining optimal weight, Watson suggested that “all people should know, at a very minimum, their usual blood pressure level, their cholesterol level, and their blood sugar level.”

A “normal” blood pressure is less than 120/80. However, for those with hypertension, the goal is to maintain a blood pressure of less than 130/80.

“Hypertension is the leading modifiable risk factor when it comes to lowering risk for developing cardiovascular disease, so keeping blood pressure at goal significantly lowers your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, heart failure or death,” said Randolph.

Randolph advised that to build good heart health, people — whether famous or not — should focus on reducing alcohol intake, eating plant-based, scheduling time for themselves, exercising at least 150 minutes per week, and taking an assessment of their risk.

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