The New York Times reported today that drug manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to find a drug that can successfully treat obesity. Over 200 drugs are in various stages of the pipeline, and include such entries as a nasal spray that contains a synthetic form of the protein that tells us we’re full.
How big is this market? Industry experts say that a blockbuster obesity drug could dwarf the $12 billion sales of the current bestseller, Lipitor.
I can imagine the day when such a drug would just be pumped into the water supply, like fluoride, as a public health measure. Less extreme than gastric bypass, but achieving the same results: overriding our natural feedback mechanisms and distancing ourselves further from trusting our own bodies.
What’s the problem with this scenario? After all, we’re already living in an unnatural food environment, so maybe we need unnatural measures to stay slim.
Forget about the philosophical implications of this – there’s a practical problem: obesity is a public health crisis not because we’re more uncomfortable on airplanes, but because it’s a marker for the diseases that kill us: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that we could reduce obesity significantly with a drug that makes us feel full before we would otherwise. We’re still going to be eating a nutrient poor diet – a malnourished diet – and we’re still going to end up suffering from all the consequences of that diet: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.
Only now, our natural hunger drive – which is telling us not to keep eating until we’re obese, but rather to keep eating until we’ve nourished ourselves with the nutrients we need to thrive – will be relegated to irrelevance. We can engineer the nature – and the humanity – right out of ourselves if we’re not careful.
The real “magic pill” for weight loss is, of course, returning to a natural diet as much as possible – 80-90% Nutrient Rich or more – rather than running from our own nature and relying on blockbuster drugs to save us from ourselves.