Opinion | Obesity, Weight-Loss Drugs and Ultraprocessed Foods

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To the Editor:

Re “What a Year on Ozempic Taught Me,” by Johann Hari (Opinion guest essay, May 12):

As an internal medicine physician for over 40 years, I am in agreement with Mr. Hari that current obesity patterns are driven by diets laden with processed foods and short on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I also like the idea of treating obesity as a medical condition rather than a moral failure or sign of weakness.

Individuals can decide about Ozempic and similar drugs taking into consideration the known benefits and risks as well as the unknowns. These are not easy decisions, and I’m sure more will be learned over time.

Not discussed in Mr. Hari’s excellent article is the need for the entire population, including those who are not overweight, to eat a well-balanced diet that largely omits ultraprocessed foods and is generous with fruits and vegetables. There are many proven benefits, including reducing the risks of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Even if one does not lose an ounce, moving a diet in this direction will be beneficial.

The same goes for increasing exercise, a proven wellness strategy.

Jonathan Freudman
San Rafael, Calif.

To the Editor:

Ultraprocessed foods, it’s all their fault! So why do you go to the supermarket and buy them? The food industry is not forcing you to do that.

I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in a family of six children, and my mother, who worked outside the home, made us lunches and dinners every day from scratch. I raised my four children in the 1980s and ’90s doing the same, with my husband’s help, since we both had careers.

No one is obese in our family. If it helps you to take this drug, fine. But stop complaining that the food industry is to blame. Go to the kitchen and cook!

Mary Ann Morigault
Marseille, France

To the Editor:

I read Johann Hari’s guest essay on Ozempic, and as someone who lost about 90 pounds without the help of any weight-loss drug, I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments about weight not being a competition with other people, but rather with the food industry.

I struggled with diet and exercise my entire life until 2019, when I really got serious about trying to lose the weight I had put on. I did most of the fads — keto, intermittent fasting, making sure to hit 10,000 steps every day — but really the biggest hurdle was just being hungry and having to wait it out.

Ozempic or Wegovy would have absolutely helped me lose weight, but I certainly don’t begrudge people for being able to take it now when I couldn’t in my weight-loss journey. I eventually became a much more exercise-focused person, and I believe that lifestyle change is what allowed me to keep the weight off these last few years.

I think these drugs are excellent avenues to weight loss for those that can afford them, but I worry that without changing lifestyle or diet, these drugs treat symptoms rather than the root cause.

I don’t think weight-loss drugs are cheating, and I don’t judge people for using a tool that was not available for me. But I do worry that the use of these drugs will not lead to a positive long-term outcome without continued use of the drugs.

Evan Bennett
Atlanta

To the Editor:

Re “What Kind of Husband Behaves Like Trump?,” by Jessica Bennett (Opinion, May 10):

The answer to that question is that Donald Trump was not the only president accused of straying from his marriage vows. Historians have identified several other presidents who allegedly had extramarital affairs.

The list includes Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. There is also the case of Grover Cleveland, who admitted he fathered an out-of-wedlock child before being elected.

Your newspaper and most of the readers whose letters are published find enough to criticize about Mr. Trump. But please leave him alone on this matter.

Diana Klebanow
Queens
The writer is a former adjunct professor of political science at Long Island University, Brooklyn campus.

To the Editor:

Jessica Bennett asks about former President Donald Trump, “What’s more honorable than a husband going to great lengths to conceal his affair?”

For the benefit of those who may miss the note of irony in Ms. Bennett’s question, I’ll posit this answer: Being faithful to your spouse, for starters.

Eric Orner
Tarrytown, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “As Trump Fan, Pastor Signals a Latino Shift” (front page, May 6):

MAGA Republicans are cynically manipulating Latino voters. Their strategy is to emphasize common ground on issues like law and order, religious and family values, patriotism and escape from oppression. Democrats urgently need to confront this false narrative.

A Republican Party that brands many immigrants as criminals is no friend of Latinos. Republicans who attack civil liberties, such as voting rights and reproductive freedom, represent the same oppression that many Latinos fought so hard to escape in their homelands. Republicans who vote against affordable health care weaken Latino families.

The MAGA insurrectionists who savagely attacked police officers on Jan. 6 are the enemies of law and order. Republicans are not patriots. Donald Trump has zero religious values.

Latino voters could determine the fate of our democracy. Democrats need to spend a lot more time in Latino churches clearly explaining that a vote for MAGA Republicans is a direct betrayal of God, country and family.

Ken Hargis
Los Altos, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Patient With Kidney Transplanted From a Pig Has Died” (news article, May 13):

Richard Slayman’s death highlights the tragic need for better solutions to end-stage kidney disease. More than 100,000 patients are waiting for organ transplants each year in the U.S. But animal-to-human transplantation, or xenotransplantation, causes more problems than it solves.

The transmission of viruses and other pathogens from pigs can be attenuated through genetic engineering, special animal confinement procedures and screening measures, but total prevention cannot be guaranteed, and potential harms could be devastating.

We are just beginning to grapple with the risks that animal agriculture poses to workers, consumers and the environment; we should not be creating an entirely new mode of large-scale animal production.

Clinical practice of xenotransplantation has been “just around the corner” for decades, yet we still have little to show for it. Organ preservation, expanded criteria donations, living donations, opt-out policies, automated referrals, regenerative therapies, and improved disease prevention and management could all together put a significant dent in — if not eliminate — the organ wait list.

These safer, more tangible ways to reduce demand for and increase supply of organs could use the same amount of attention and investment given to xenotransplantation.

Catharine E. Krebs
Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
The writer is a medical research program manager at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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