It sounds too good to be true: an injection that dramatically reduces weight without requiring radical lifestyle changes. But is the “skinny jab” a miracle cure or a potential health disaster hiding in plain sight?
Presenter Anna Richardson goes into The Truth About the Skinny Jab (Channel 4, Tuesday, 8pm) with an open mind. She isn’t obese but feels she could lose a few pounds. She notes that the new generation of weight-loss injections has been developed for the very overweight. Still, they have become popular with otherwise healthy individuals who want to become slightly slimmer. Perhaps that includes her?
The headline story is certainly striking. “It’s on a par with Viagra in terms of revolutionising the treatment of a condition,” says one GP.
Richardson begins by exploring how these drugs work. In Cambridge, a scientist explains they target the hormone that tells the brain that the stomach is full. “There is a huge biological driver as to why some people eat more than others,” he says. “If you alter one hormone in your body just a little bit, you eat less.”
The problem arises when people who are not obese begin to use medications such as Wegovy and Ozempic – which contain the “active ingredient” semaglutide and are intended to be taken in conjunction with changes in diet and exercise. One influencer explains that she could buy these drugs online via a virtual pharmacist. She claimed she was overweight. But she could have been “a 15-year-old with an eating disorder”.
Many private doctors in the UK are only too happy to prescribe the jabs. Richardson visits three medics in one afternoon: two offer to supply her with the drug. One is prepared to inject her, there and then.
Then there are the side effects. Buckle up: they are unpleasant. Some experience acid reflux. With others, constipation is an issue. One woman had to resort to laxatives. “I was going once a week,” she says. “The acid reflux ... it’s a fireball in your throat all the time.”
Richardson concludes that there is no such thing as a shortcut to lose weight. Unless you are obese, the best way to lose weight is by altering your diet and – how radical is this? – exercising. A skinny jab may seem like a magic wand – but the presenter discovers this is a miracle with a potentially hellish sting in the tail.