The Cardiologist's Wife: New Year, New In Health Care
by Lisa Tedder
Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to catch up on the latest in health care. There were many exciting developments for prevention and in the treatment of diseases in 2023; the coming year will see them put into practice.
As consumers increasingly look for healthier food options, the food industry has answered with everything from supplements that target women’s changing hormonal needs to lab grown meat. The start of a new year is as good a time as any to take stock of your own health and make changes where needed or to try some of these new trends.
People are more focused on their health span or the years of their life in which they are most healthy and active. In order to prolong those best years, many seek foods and drinks that promise to fight the effects of aging or ward off disease. Some new beverages to try are herbal coffees and teas from companies like Clevr that promise to reduce inflammation, ease menopausal symptoms, add fiber to your diet or support your immune system.
Many consumers also want to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet, recognizing the importance of the fiber and nutrients found in these foods for their well-being. Convenience is still key as consumers will look for plant-based foods and drinks that are easy to prepare or ready to eat, tasty and affordable while having fewer ingredients and using actual whole fruits and vegetables. Products like cereal and pasta made with buckwheat, meat substitutes made with more veggies or plant-based milk made with just two ingredients are a few of the items available.
Some like it hot, and the food industry is answering the call with more hot peppers and spicy food items, even in the drink and dessert aisles. Spices and hot peppers have been shown to have many nutritional benefits in addition to the flavor they bring to food. Look for seasonings like McCormick’s Tamarind and Padilla Chile Seasoning to add zest to food.
Health conscience consumers will not only be looking to eat more nutritious foods but also want food produced from sustainable sources. With the recent report that Arkansas aquifers are at a critical level and other areas of the country are experiencing water shortages, it makes sense that we find ways to produce food not only for today but that we maintain our ability to produce food in the future. More brands are supporting sustainable practices used in manufacturing and farming that use or waste less water, including self-care and house cleaning products.
Raising animals for consumption, especially cattle, releases an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. Last June, the USDA approved the sale of cultured chicken meat to consumers, but so far it has been limited to a few restaurants in the D.C. and San Francisco areas. Lab grown meat is grown from actual cells from animals in a sterile laboratory environment. Proponents say it reduces greenhouse gases, eliminates cruelty concerns and reduces worries about salmonella and other food born illnesses. There is no difference in taste or texture, and it comes in pre-cut portions. There are some questions as to whether it will truly have less impact on the environment and when the technology to mass produce meat will be developed.
Late in 2023, there were two exciting developments for weight loss drugs. The FDA approved the use of the Eli Lilly drug Tirzepatide for weight loss under the brand name of Zepbound. Tirzepatide is also sold under the brand name Mounjaro, a diabetic medicine. These two drugs will compete with Wegovy (for weight loss) and Ozempic (for diabetes) made by Novo Nordisk, which both contain the drug semaglutide. (Tirzepatide and semaglutide work similarly in controlling diabetes and aiding in significant weight loss.) Since Novo Nordisk has been unable to keep up with the unusually high demand for semaglutide, it is hoped that Tirzepatide will reduce the shortages and make it easier for those struggling with diabetes or obesity to obtain medication. With two drugs now on the market, hopefully prices will come down, as well. Both companies are working on pill forms for these drugs to make them more accessible and cheaper than the injectables.
In addition to being a weight loss and diabetic drug, scientists are discovering that semaglutide works for several heart conditions. Wegovy had already been shown to reduce symptoms of heart failure in obese individuals, then a new study released last fall suggests that semaglutide may prevent serious cardiovascular events for overweight or obese high-risk patients by as much as 20%. The study followed 17,000 adults age 45 and older for five years, making it the longest and largest trial of semaglutide.
Those taking the drug had lower blood pressure, better blood sugar levels and lower signs of inflammation in addition to significant weight loss. The research results were highly anticipated, as in the last 10 years no medication has been as effective at reducing cardiovascular risk among people with heart disease as statins. These new findings will push insurance companies and Medicare to cover the drugs, but it could make supplies of Wegovy even shorter. While the company is still waiting on FDA approval for the new indication, Novo Nordisk is very confident it will get the approval this year. Now Novo Nordisk is looking at other uses for semaglutide, such as a treatment for kidney disease.