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Ozempic on the menu

SCIENCE | Recent research points to health benefits and risks of the popular drug


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Ozempic on the menu
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EMPLOYING semaglutide drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy to lose weight is all the rage these days, with users ranging from Oprah Winfrey to Elon Musk. Recent research suggests the drugs have some health benefits beyond weight loss—and some additional risks.

According to a Jan. 22 study published in Gut, long-term use of the drugs may reduce liver cancer and end-stage liver disease in diabetic individuals with chronic liver disease. The analysis found that those who took semaglutide for 10 years were half as likely to develop severe liver disease as those who took them for only a short time.

In December, a report in The New England Journal of Medicine also showed that semaglutide use reduces stroke and heart attack in patients without diabetes. Research published in 2019 had found the same is true for patients with diabetes.

It’s not all good news: An analysis in JAMA last October found that patients on semaglutide were more prone to certain gastrointestinal problems than patients on a different type of weight loss drug. Semaglutide was associated with a higher risk of pancreatitis, bowel obstruction, and gastroparesis (or slowed digestion).

Still, a data review Epic Research published on Jan. 23 suggests the drugs usually succeed in promoting what most users hope for: long-term weight reduction. Among over 20,000 patients who lost at least 5 pounds while on a semaglutide, 56 percent had either maintained their weight loss or shed additional pounds one year after they stopped taking the drug.


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The carbon footprint of city gardens

Urban gardens may beautify the concrete jungle, but new research suggests they’re not the model of efficiency that some might wish. A University of Michigan study, published Jan. 22 in Nature Cities, found that produce grown on urban farms has on average six times the carbon footprint of produce grown on conventional farms.

Some urban sites assessed in the study performed better than others, and some urban-grown crops performed exceptionally under certain conditions: Tomatoes grown in urban soil exposed to open air, for example, had a lower carbon footprint than tomatoes grown in conventional greenhouses.

But urban gardens tend to be energy-intensive, often using raised beds, compost, fertilizer, weed block fabric, and so on. The researchers hope that urban growers will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by composting waste and irrigating with rainwater. —H.F.


Heather Frank

Heather is a science correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked in both food and chemical product development, and currently works as a research chemist. Heather resides with her family in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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