Could Placebo Diet Pills Help You Lose Weight?

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

Could Placebo Diet Pills Help You Lose Weight? by Laura Moncur from FlickrThis article from the New York Times got me thinking. A mother in search of a placebo to give to her child instead of medicine was stymied by the fact that you can’t actually buy a placebo pill. She has created a company called Efficacy Brands and released a “drug” called Obecalp, which is placebo spelled backward. It’s the drug you give your kids when you know they’re not really sick and just need to feel comforted.

Sometimes, the placebo effect has been shown to minimize symptoms better than drugs. Could diet pills help you lose weight, even if they are just sugar pills? What if you KNOW they’re just sugar pills? There is some thought that maybe they could:

At least one study has shown that placebos can be effective even when the patients know that they are inert. In a study in 2007, 70 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were asked to reduce their medications gradually by replacing some of their drugs with placebo pills. The children and their parents were explicitly told that these “dose extender” pills contained no drug.

This article from Mind Hacks, delves further:

Placebos are not ‘ineffective’. In fact, when three condition trials are run (no treatment vs placebo vs medical treatment), placebo consistently out performs ‘no treatment’ and of course, not uncommonly, the medical treatment condition as well.

Furthermore, studies done in the 1970s showed that when heroin users inject water (sometimes done deliberately to alleviate cravings when drugs are in short supply), they can experience drug-like euphoria and have been observed to show opiate-like physiological signs such as pupil constriction.

I have long said that spending money on diet pills is just wasting your money, but I never took into account the placebo effect. What if I put some Skittles into a bottle and tried to convince myself that they were diet pills that would help me lose weight? Would that work, even if I knew that they were just candy in a bottle?

All of this just makes me think that losing weight is voodoo. Is it really all belief? If I believe I will lose weight, I will lose weight. What if I believe I will lose weight and still eat pizza every day? Do we really know so little about the human mind and body?


2 Responses to “Could Placebo Diet Pills Help You Lose Weight?”

  1. iportion Says:

    Most likely better than the real pills

  2. Wil Ford | Lose Weight Naturally Says:

    Laura, you raised an interesting issue. Imagine pediatricians prescribing “depressed” children placebo depression pills to make them happy. Imagine heart surgeons prescribing placebo heart pills to elderly patients suffering imagined “heart” ailments. Just imagine.

    I wonder what would be the repercussions if a doctor were sued for issuing “addictive” placebo pills by his or her obnoxious tweens and fiesty elderly patients.

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