Has Ozempic Opened the Door for Weight Loss Treatment Discoveries Using Functional Food Ingredients?
Consumer Corner with Caleigh
The market for weight loss solutions is thriving. As of 2021, it has been valued at $224 billion globally and is expected to reach $405 billion by 2030. This growth is fueled by the global obesity epidemic, driving a surge in healthcare expenses and resulting in an urgent need for cost-effective and efficient weight loss remedies.
Promising Weight Loss Solutions
Much of the current buzz in weight loss treatments centers around drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists. These drugs were developed as medications for diabetes. However, because these compounds also regulate metabolism and appetite, they effectively promote weight loss. This has led to increased off-label use of prescription anti-diabetes drugs Ozempic and Mounjaro for weight management. Recently, the FDA approved Wegovy, which contains the same active ingredient as Ozempic, specifically as a treatment for obesity.
What Consumers Care About
Individuals interested in weight loss typically care about four main points when looking for a treatment: safety, effectiveness, cost, and accessibility. However, there are issues associated with current weight loss treatments, which means they may not be suitable for everybody. These treatments have been shown to have side effects, some of which can be severe. The cost of these treatments is also exorbitant, rendering them unaffordable for those who may benefit most from their use. Additionally, insurance companies have tightened their restrictions on the off-label use of Ozempic and Mounjaro for weight loss, limiting coverage to only their use for diabetes treatment. As a result, these medications may remain inaccessible to those who may benefit from weight loss but do not have diabetes.
Some consumers are looking for alternatives to GLP-1 receptor agonists, such as Ozempic/Wegovy and Mounjaro, due to their high cost, inaccessibility, and potential side effects. There is a lot of interest in different functional food ingredients as substitutes for prescribed weight loss medications. Functional food ingredients provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition when added to food and beverages or as a dietary supplement. The functional food ingredient space is vast, and companies are scrambling to discover the best-performing ingredients for their products. However, the traditional approaches to research and development in the food and beverage industry do not scale, making new product development slow. So, how can this industry accelerate the discovery of functional food ingredients that offer weight-management solutions for people unwilling or unable to use pharmaceutical medications? Enter NemaLife.
Looking to the Future
NemaLife uses the nematode C. elegans, a tiny worm, to screen potential new functional food ingredients for weight management. I know what you’re thinking, “A worm? Is that even relevant to human biology?” And the answer is yes; C. elegans is a very powerful model organism that can be used to study various biological processes, including fat accumulation. Its genetics, physiology, and metabolism are very similar to our own, making it an ideal model for studying the effects of potential weight loss treatments. NemaLife has helped its partners in the food industry discover ingredients that prevent excess fat accumulation in C. elegans using an assay that is translatable to humans.
Check out the credentials for this awesome nematode:
Many of us have pondered the same question: Why does it take companies so long to develop innovative solutions to the world’s problems, given the advancements in technology today? The answer lies in the constraints of time and finances.
Companies are hesitant to spend millions of dollars on multiple preclinical trials in mammals, primarily mice, that may not yield favorable results. Therefore, they prefer to stick with known ingredients that may be less effective rather than spending excessive funds on screening for new ingredients that might not work out. Additionally, mammalian studies can take over a year, depending on the readout, wasting time and money on uncertain outcomes.
However, the introduction of NemaLife's high-throughput platform has changed the game, allowing companies to test hundreds of ingredients simultaneously and determine their suitability for different health benefits in a quarter of the time of a mammalian study. Our platform enables companies to identify the health areas where their ingredients have maximum benefit. Furthermore, the financial commitment is minimal compared to mammalian testing. Companies in this space can eliminate these discovery roadblocks by evaluating potential weight loss solutions by partnering with NemaLife.
Traditionally, functional food ingredient discovery and development has been serial, with companies testing a handful of ingredients for a single health area at a time to save money. However, at NemaLife, our platform is designed to save money and time by simultaneously evaluating the health benefits of up to 50 ingredients in as little as six months. - Dhaval Patel, Ph.D., Director of Research & Innovation at NemaLife
These substantial differences ultimately impact the product development timeline, especially if an ingredient does not have a positive effect, which means the process must start over with another ingredient. The time lost in these ingredient screens is time lost for companies and their consumers looking for alternatives to medication for weight loss.
As someone who has suffered the effects of weight gain due to medication side effects, I am also a consumer seeking products that won’t negatively affect my gut health or digestion. I know these solutions will likely be stuck in a traditional ingredient evaluation pipeline. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, particularly as a woman. Many women seek safe and effective weight loss solutions for issues such as childbearing, insulin resistance, PCOS, or other health concerns. We’re all looking for fast, effective, and affordable solutions!
The demand for safe and efficient weight management solutions is rapidly increasing. It would ultimately benefit all consumers if companies looked for ways to expedite their research and discovery processes. If you’re a company reading this, I encourage you to schedule a call to learn more about how you can accelerate your ingredient discovery to have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people worldwide with NemaLife!