Japan's lessons for combating obesity without Ozempic

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/05/13/japans-lessons-for-combating-obesity-without-ozempic.html


Johann Hari is, as they say on Wikipedia, not a reliable source.

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner criticised Hari for incorrectly stating, in Magic Pill, that Rayner had taken Ozempic (semaglutide), which had “robbed him of his pleasure in food” in even “great restaurants in Paris” as a result. Rayner stated this was “utter bollocks”[63] - he had written in The Observer that he would not take semaglutide, because “being a big man who loves his dinner is a profound part of me”. He also did not make any kind of mention of Paris.[64] Hari apologised on X[65], claiming that he had confused the article by Rayner with an article by Leila Latif in the same paper,[66] although Latif’s appetite loss was not caused by semaglutide but a different medication,[67] and she is a film critic, not a restaurant critic.


“he flexed his tiny biceps, and giggled.”



he loves rice because ‘the rice has protein’

Weighing Options Are You Sure GIF


Michelle Obama tried to encourage this when she was First Lady, and was met with a loud chorus of “OMG, why are you trying to starve our kids! They need to eat!” Jamie Oliver tried to go around the country and get a bunch of schools to change, and was met with similar resistance, plus a chorus of school officials claiming they couldn’t afford healthy food options. We need some very fundamental and drastic change in our attitudes towards food in this country, and there’s not an easy fix to that. Ozempic is not a quick fix, either, but I’m getting tired of the guilt trip from some quarters towards people who are using those medications. They aren’t all people looking for a quick fix. Many people have tried everything else to lose weight without success. It’s not as simple as “Just eat less.” And if these medications can help people lead healthier lives, stop shitting on the people trying to do that.


And, a diet high in white rice is a major contributer to Type 2 Diabetes risk, and Japan actually has pretty high rates of T2D (which has been linked to … diet). And GLP-1 agonists are approved for diabetes treatment in Japan, but I don’t beleive they are approved for weight loss.

The take home to me? No country has a perfect universal diet.

So personally, I will eat a balance of foods from every culture. IMHO life is more delicious that way :wink: Although Im not so great at making the healthy choices…


Interesting. Your comment made me curious, so I Googled. About 11% of Americans have type 2 diabetes. In Japan, it’s 13%.


Just to be clear, Ozempic is for diabetes and Wegovy is for weight loss. They’re the same drug, but AFAIK you can’t get Ozempic through normal channels unless you’ve got diabetes (sadly as it is much cheaper than Wegovy).


For people with diabetes, Ozempic and it’s relatives also have fewer side effects than, say, Metformin. It actually seems to be a pretty remarkable drug.


And the scientifically interesting part is that Type 2 Diabetes in Japan is mostly in non-obese people.

There are lost of studies around the topic (in Japan, and other countries) in medical/science journals if you are interested in the topic.


from what I understand, walking and riding bikes is considered ordinary behavior to get places in Japan. while car culture is strong there, it is not at the expense of destroying alternative modes of transport as we have done in the US. their train culture is well known and, although you will sit on the train (or stand if it’s crowded,) you still have to walk to and from the station.

the slogan “sitting is the new smoking” seems to be catching on here, but I don’t know if people think about the considerable amount of time they sit in their cars and how little they walk between it and their couch at one end and through a parking lot to their office chair at the the other end.


Again?! How the fuck is he still getting commissioned.

There are better writers without that particular set of baggage attached to their name, so I can’t see why any editor would run the risk.

Oh, and please, when looking for some writing about a health or science topic, please can we get someone with science qualifications to do the writing? It really does help a lot.


Even if everything in that article were true, and you can see from other comments that it is clearly not, the US and Japan have very different cultures so while we could potentially learn a thing or two from Japan, I think it would be difficult to implement in the US>


Without making any judgments about the accuracy of this claim, other factors in Japan that might affect weight and health, or the cost/risks/benefits of Ozempic, I’ll just say that if Japanese food were as readily and conveniently available in the USA as it is in Japan, I’d certainly be thinner and healthier. All the other stuff presented in the article seems like mere window dressing for saying “they have better options available to them”. Thanks, I guess?


I find I lose about a kilo a week when I’m in Japan. That’s partly because the diet is generally less fatty, and also from all the extra exercise, because I’m walking around a lot more.

If I had a choice on the risk of getting diabetes, I suppose I’d take the 13% chance in Japan and be a healthy, over the 11% chance and be as fat as I am.


First Haidt, then Hari. What is it with serial fabulists and media acceptance? How many lies do you have to tell before you become a Serious Public Intellectual?


Diet is less processed and less fats and sugars than in the US. And they walk a heck of a lot more in a lot of places in Japan.

We really put way too much god damn sugar in everything here.


But, but sugar dopamine is delicious…
Or is that addictive, ah hell it’s both!


We put exactly the amount of sugar needed to make foods as addictive as possible. There’s a process to reach the “bliss point”, where the food scientists add just enough sugar to make the food cloyingly sweet, then back it off a bit. Repeat with fat, and again with salt. Once the professional food tasters have finalized the recipes and the marketers have designed their ad campaigns, it’s off to the production lines and to store shelves near you.

There’s a good reason we are as fat as we are. Our foods are designed to be as appealing and addictive as they can be.


I wonder how prevalent food deserts are in Japan. Because they’re pretty prevalent over here.