Study finds Ozempic used for weight loss, diabetes in Canada

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Roughly one million Canadians are using a GLP-1 type drug like Ozempic to manage weight loss and Type 2 diabetes, according to a new survey from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab.


A news release from Dalhousie says the national survey, conducted with marketing research firm Caddle, gathered responses from 8,662 Canadians. It determined 10 per cent of the adult population in Canada uses a GLP-1 type drug, which the surveyors estimate means between 900,000 and 1.4 million Canadians are currently using it.


According to the survey, 57.2 per cent of respondents used the drug for Type 2 diabetes, 27.2 per cent use it for weight loss, and 11.6 per cent use it for both.


The survey also noted a marked decrease in the consumption of carbonated soft drinks, candy, salty snacks, chocolate, and alcohol among some of the people who use a GLP-1 type drug.


“As the use of GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic increases, we are seeing significant shifts in consumer food choices, particularly a reduction in the intake of sugary and highly processed foods,” said Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in the release. “This trend has profound implications for the food industry, necessitating innovation and a move towards healthier, low-calorie, and low-carb alternative.”


The report also showcases that more millennials are using GLP-1 type drugs and are in their economic prime.


“That group is known for snacking and so of course when you think about weight management, you have to think about unhealthy snacks and so clearly the data is telling us that millennials using GLP-1 are not eating unhealthy snacks as much,” said registered dietitian, Angela Dufour.


“It actually acts like hormones that can suppress and tell the brain that we’re full, we’re not hungry, and we’re actually psychologically satisfied.”


Some of Dufour’s clients are on Ozempic and don’t have an appetite to eat for most of the day. She said there’s a 35 per cent reduction on what their current intake is compared to previously.


“Drugs like Ozempic actually helps reduce those cravings, so they might not go for those chips just because that craving isn’t there when they’re shopping,” said Dufour.


Charlebois said companies, like Pepsi and Nestle, have developed several products over the years with the understanding that people would go to the grocery store and impulse buy.


“When you look at the food industry where margins are very low and grocers and restaurants are always fighting to increase and grow, of course you have to wonder if more and more people take these drugs, what will happen to the market,” he said.


He adds this is a cause for concern right now for a lot of food companies and they are watching this phenomena closely.


“There’s probably anywhere between 300,000-400,000 Canadians taking GLP-1 to lose weight. We are expecting that number to grow as much as what we would see in the United States.”


Recently, the United Nations declared obesity as the number one global health risk in the world. Charlebois predicts government will be looking at obesity very differently in the future.


“We have this pharmacare bill in Ottawa [and] it doesn’t include GLP-1 right now, but my guess is there will be some discussions in parliament to include it eventually,” he said.


Snacks and sugary foods were quick to find their way into Anam Saddiqui’s shopping cart, but since she started using Ozempic to shed weight, she does not have the appetite.


“I don’t feel the need of eating 2-3 days in a row,” she said.


She began using it in December. Since then, she has noticed all the temptations are gone and is spending less on groceries.


“It was $200 a week. Now it’s a $100 a week [and] sometimes it’s like $300 a month,” said Saddiqui.


Due to the lack of appetite, within a month and a half of using the drug, Saddiqui has lost 60 pounds. She said the drug has helped reduce her cravings as well and she is not going to restaurants anymore either.


“I have stopped going to restaurants starting January. When I had gone before, I would opt for protein.”


For most of Saddiqui’s life, she has struggled with her weight and says she is grateful to have an option where she sees results with spending habits that she believes are helping her health long-term.

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