Two of the biggest televised events in the nation — the Grammys and the Oscars — featured hosts who quipped at Americans’ usage of Ozempic for weight loss. If it’s significant enough to make it into those scripts, it must be significant, period.

Actually, experts estimate that about 5% of Americans are on a GLP-1 drug. GLP-1 stands for Glucagen-like peptide-1 and refers to a group of medications used to treat type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar. Ozempic would be an example of the semaglutide class of this drug, working to suppress appetite.

This statistic sounds quite high, until you consider that the current U.S. population sits at just under 3.5 million. Also, that 5% encompasses those who use GLP-1 drugs as prescribed to address health risks associated with diabetes, those who use it for weight loss to treat obesity, and those who use it off-label for cosmetic weight loss (the Hollywood one-percenters called out by the award show hosts Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel). Thus, the number of people using Ozempic purely for weight loss is even lower than the number of Americans using it in total.

Still, Darren Seifer of Circana pointed out on an episode of the International Dairy Foods Association’s “Dairy Download” podcast that about 30% of Americans say they are interested in taking the drug, should it become more accessible. As it stands, the cost of a prescription is around $1,000 per month, meaning only consumers with disposable income or who receive a co-pay through a prescription can afford to be on the product long-term. If they become more affordable (and less off-putting — they currently come only in the form of injection), Seifer said marketing and retail companies should be prepared to pay attention.

Until then, it’s too soon to tell if and how the use of GLP-1 drugs will affect consumer habits. But their usage may, if anything, lend to boosting the dairy industry. Dairy foods are high in protein and other wholistic nutrients Ozempic-using consumers are looking for in their newly satiating-focused food purchases. Snack food companies, on the other hand, may need to consider rebranding products or providing options with smaller portions. If the Ozempic trend reaches a tipping point, consumers will be turning less and less to indulgent, quick-fix options.

Dan Frommer, a co-guest on the podcast, agreed that it’s too early to predict changes in food retail sales associated with Ozempic and other GLP-1 drugs. Still, he noted that, according to research conducted through his company The New Consumer, given a choice between being 25% healthier or earning 25% more money, surveyed Americans across all age groups (besides Gen Z) chose being 25% healthier.

This says a lot about the American experience and our values, but it also isn’t terribly surprising, given that 40% of adult Americans are obese.

“At the highest level, Americans are not well,” Frommer said. “A drug like this that works to mitigate heart disease and weight gain can lead to longer lives.”

Longevity — a buzz word if there ever was one. But what does it say about our society that we need drugs to achieve a healthy weight? Do these medications promote lifestyles of wellness, or does it eliminate them? What are the long-term effects of being on them? Does going off the medication provide an opportunity for regression?

Such questions, Frommer and Seifer emphasized, are far from being answered, but they are worth asking. For those who take the drug for medical purposes and find relief, the reviews are nothing but positive. Of course, each person’s physiology is such that any drug will affect everyone differently. Individuals should consult with a medical professional when considering a new medication and integrate all forms of healthy habits into a personal routine for optimal wellness results. Hopefully this includes several servings of nutritious dairy products.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
April 15, 2024
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