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Companies say they’re exploring high-protein products for customers using medications to lose weight

Written by on December 11, 2023

CRISTINA PEDRAZZINI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Medications for weight loss like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy have soared in popularity recently. And that’s prompted some major food companies to prepare for a potential shift in what, and how much, consumers who are taking these medication are eating.

Nestle and General Mills are developing companion products, like high-nutritional snacks and supplement shakes, for people taking these drugs.

“There’s probably about 1% of U.S. adults that are on these drugs today. But we can already see how that’s affecting their eating patterns at a very high level,” Alexia Howard, senior food research analyst at Bernstein, told ABC News. “I don’t think we’re going to see a massive collapse in the number of calories that are eaten across America. But things like protein shakes, cottage cheese, supplements to fortify, vitamins and minerals are probably going to do quite well out of this.

Abbott Laboratories, the company behind Ensure Shakes, told ABC News they will have a protein drink on the market by next year that’s designed to help with muscle mass in people who are using the drugs to help shed pounds. Losing muscle mass is a concern with any type of weight loss.

Rachael Knight Gullette said she’s lost 150 pounds since she started taking Mounjaro last year in July and enjoys the convenience that protein shakes provide.

“I have usually a shake every day – it’s the best way to start my day,” she said.

“The smartest thing for food companies to do honestly is to figure out how to help us, and we definitely need help,” Gullette said. “I would love to have a shake that could be a meal replacement that has enough calories in it.”

Experts say that while supplement shakes are a quick way for people trying to lose weight to take in nutrients, they should also consider sourcing protein through eating lean meats and vegetables.

“It’s understandable why a protein shake would be seen as a reasonable option to help fulfill those high-value needs of wanting to increase the amount of protein that you’re eating,” ABC News medical correspondent Dr. Darien Sutton said. “As physicians, we always advise that these protein shakes can be hiding a lot of added sugar. They’re also not tightly controlled and regulated by the FDA.”

Weight-loss medications are not a complete solution on their own. Doctors advise pairing their use with a healthy diet and physical activity for best results, and to develop healthy habits.

 

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