Concerns about Kids Taking Ozempic and Wegovy

Concerns about Kids Taking Ozempic and Wegovy

The Hidden Dangers of Weight-Loss Drugs for Children


Weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have gained significant popularity in recent times. However, despite their increasing usage, it’s important to recognize that these medications may not be suitable for everyone, especially children. A team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, has warned against the potential dangers of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA) for pediatric patients suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Treating childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes with these drugs can potentially lead to unintended and adverse consequences, according to the team of clinicians, exercise scientists, pharmaceutical scholars, ethicists, and behavioral experts. While GLP-1RAs may benefit children with morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes, the authors express concern about the potential for overuse and abuse among youth.

Children and adolescents have unique nutritional needs, requiring sufficient energy and calories for growth and development, as well as physical activity. Dr. Dan Cooper, a professor of pediatrics at UCI School of Medicine, emphasizes the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and energy intake in children. Any disruption in this balance may have severe long-term health consequences. For instance, a proper diet and exercise routine during childhood contribute to the development of strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

Unfortunately, the potential for abuse of these weight-loss medications exists among children and teenagers. Individuals with eating disorders may misuse these drugs, and those involved in competitive sports such as wrestling, martial arts, gymnastics, or ballet may also be at risk. Co-author Jan Hirsch, dean of the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, advocates for a thorough examination of the benefits, costs, and impact on quality of life before considering long-term use in youth.

The influence of social media on young people’s perceptions of body image and diet culture cannot be ignored. Dr. Emma Cooper, a resident in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UCI School of Medicine, warns about the potential impact of these medications when used without proper supervision. As access to GLP-1RAs becomes easier, more children may engage in unsupervised consumption in an attempt to achieve societal beauty standards. This places them at risk of developing not only physical health issues but also mental and emotional problems as they age.

A lack of safe spaces for children to play and exercise, combined with the wide availability of cheap, high-calorie fast food, has contributed to the epidemic of pediatric obesity. Underrepresented minorities have been particularly affected by this crisis. As drug manufacturers develop oral forms of GLP-1RAs, there is a concern that oversight may decrease, leading to further abuse.

The researchers urge healthcare providers to screen for and intervene in cases of inappropriate medication use, especially considering the rising rates of mental health disorders and eating disorders. It is essential to prioritize comprehensive and holistic approaches to pediatric obesity and type 2 diabetes, focusing on lifestyle modifications, nutrition education, and psychological support.

The commentary by the University of California, Irvine researchers was recently published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. This warning serves as a crucial reminder that while weight-loss drugs may offer benefits for some individuals, they come with potential risks, particularly for young patients.


More information

For more information on childhood obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Sources: University of California, Irvine, news release, Aug. 28, 2023