Developing diarrhoea or thyroid cancer may limit consumer enthusiasm

In America, there's been a recent frenzy of interest in the potential of GLP-1 drugs - such as Ozempic and Wegovy - to deliver miracle levels of weight-loss. Alongside this goes a frenzy of speculation about what such drugs might mean for the food industry, with big claims made about a transformation coming. What's now becoming clear is that they will be less important than we are being told.

Many companies feel the need to respond to the media hype about GLP-1 drugs, which a recent study says are being used by 15 million Americans, with that number said to grow to 70 million (about 20% of the population) within a few years. Nestlé has been particularly quick to respond, announcing the launch later in 2024 of Vital Pursuit, “a new line of foods intended to be a companion for GP-1 weight loss medication users.” It’s the first major US brand to be launched by the company in three decades. Nestlé Health Science also unveiled a website called GLP-1Nutrition, for the nutritional support of people using the weight-loss drugs.

There are two reasons to be skeptical.

1. Most of the claims about GLP-1's transformative abilities are coming from consultants, bankers and the financial world. They are the same people who made big and unfounded claims about the future of plant-based alternatives over the last 10 years. Given how completely wrong they were, we should have learned by now to be sceptical about their futurism. After all, their boosterism is based on the hope that it will make them a lot of make money, not on cool appraisal.

2. But the biggest reason to be sceptical is science. Anyone who wants to understand the factors that will limit the uptake of GLP-1 drugs and probably will cause this frenzy to run out of steam within a year or so should start by listening to two podcasts - links below - by Professor Ben Bikman. Social media doesn't just serve up misinformation, it also serves up science.

Bikman is Professor of Cell Biology & Physiology at Brigham Young University in the US. He is an expert on metabolism and obesity, with an impressive body of published research, and an ability to communicate the science to a wide audience in an accessible way in 30 minute bites. We recommend that you listen to these two podcasts. They may inoculate you against the GLP-1 frenzy!

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