GLP-1s and the Butterfly Effect

| November 1, 2023

Jennifer C. Seger, MD, FOMA, is the Co-clinical Editor of Bariatric Times; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine; Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute of Texas, San Antonio, Texas.

Dear Readers,

This morning I turned on the news to see a feature segment on the Today Show that was discussing the popularity of Ozempic (semaglutide).1 While this is no longer big breaking news, some of the unexpected downstream effects might surprise you. 

According to the Jefferies Financial Group,2 the airline industry stands to see big benefits from more widespread use of medications like semaglutide. The amount of fuel required to complete a flight is based on overall weight. They estimate that if every passenger lost just 10 pounds, then the cost of fuel would decrease, saving an estimated $80 million annually per airline.1,3

Other industries that might see a change, for better or worse, are as follows:

Apparel: On the industry side, we can expect gains, as people often need to update their wardrobes and downsize. Consumers who no longer need to shop for plus-size clothing might end up saving some money as well.

Fitness industry/equipment: Successful weight loss often leads to more energy, which in turn tends to increase motivation to become more active. Gyms, fitness studios, clothing, and equipment manufacturers could all see gains.

Food industry: This sector has already seen some decreases in sales of sweet, salty packaged foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol, while companies specializing in healthier options have seen a boost in their bottom lines.4 Some grocery stores, such as Walmart,4 are reporting lower sales from patients taking semaglutide, which is not surprising, as those taking semaglutide consume an estimated 30 to 40 percent fewer calories per day.

Healthcare: It has been well documented that as little as 5- to 10-percent weight loss can lead to major improvements in chronic diseases. Diabetes can be put into remission with 15- to 20-percent weight loss, translating into big savings on healthcare spending. An analysis done by the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center of Policy and Economics5 found that in the first 10 years alone (after successfully passing the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act [TROA]), Medicare would save federal taxpayers $245 billion, assuming private insurers were to follow Medicare’s lead. If that’s not enough of a butterfly effect for you, how about the estimated $1 trillion in cumulative social benefits predicted by including anti-obesity medication coverage?5

With that said, I’d like to make one last request for your help to finally push the TROA over the finish line. If each of us acted within our local communities to raise awareness about the above, encouraging people to write letters to their state legislators, Congress would have no choice but to act. Click HERE to be directed to the Obesity Action Coalition’s easy to follow guide to submit your letter now.6

Lastly, a huge thank you to everyone at Bariatric Times and Dr. Rich Peterson for allowing me to be a part of such an incredible team for the past two years. It has been a true pleasure and honor.

In health,

Jenny Seger, MD, FOMA


  1. TODAY. Economic ripple effects of Ozempic and other weight loss drugs. YouTube. Published 3 Nov 2023. Accessed 15 Nov 2023.
  2. Equity Research Team. Weigh to go: assessing the wider implications of a slimmer society. Jefferies. 2 Oct 2023. Accessed 6 Nov 2023.
  3. Kirschner K. Airlines want you to lose weight. Ozempic could save them millions. Business Insider. 2 Oct 2023. Accessed 15 Nov 2023.
  4. Case B, Banjo S. Ozempic is making people buy less food, Walmart says. Bloomberg. Updated 5 Oct 2023. Accessed 6 Nov 2023.
  5. Ward AS, Tysinger B, Nguyen PG, et al. Benefits of Medicare coverage for weight loss drugs. USC Schaeffer. 18 Apr 2023. Accessed 6 Nov 2023.
  6. Obesity Action Coalition. Urge your legislators to support the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act! Accessed 6 Nov 2023.

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