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Anti-Fat Pill

A lot of mice have gotten fat so someday we won’t have to. Scientists recently discovered that turning off a gene in mice’s genetic code caused them to stop producing an enzyme which caused the build-up of an amino acid which caused cells to make new proteins and then destroy them over and over again burning lots of calories without getting fat. Did you get that? Basically, some people have cells that do a lot of busy work that waste time and energy – just like your office job! But unlike sitting in front of a computer all day, this busy work keeps them thin. It’s a long way of saying that genes do probably play a factor in making you fat and yes there really are some people who can eat cake all day and not gain weight. You can find more information in the easy-to-read MSNBC article or the more detailed Nature.com article or if you have PhD in cell biology you can dive into the original paper published in Cell Metabolism. The MSNBC article I found funny in particular because it talks about fat fruit flies. How can you tell if a fruit fly is fat? Do you weigh it? Do you squash it to see if it leaves a really big stain?

Articles like this seem to come out every couple months, talking about proteins and enzymes and genes. Each article convinces me more and more that a hundred years from now obesity is going to be a medical oddity. All the weight loss blogs will go offline. Lane Bryant will go out of business. If our descendants jeans get a little tight (assuming they still wear jeans and not shiny moon pants), they’ll pick up a leptin prescription from their doctor. Then they’ll laugh about how silly it was that people used to diet to lose weight as they wash their pills down with a double-fudge brownie milkshake.

When I think of diseases like polio or small pox, they’re not threatening at all. When Nicole Kidman dies of tuberculosis at the end of Moulin Rouge,* I just shake my head and thank God for antibiotics. I don’t fear polio because it can be prevented with a shot, but just last century it could kill you or paralyze you for life. While I don’t think obesity is as bad as polio or small pox, it’s certainly not considered a desirable, especially when you get as fat as I was and you injure yourself walking up the stairs.

As more and more fruit flies and mice get fat and skinny in the medical laboratories in the world, eventually we’ll reach a point where obesity can be controlled through pills or vaccines or genetic therapy. It just won’t happen in time to do me any good. My loose skin is already here. It’s possible they might eventually develop a cure for aging too, but I’ll probably be dead by then. Which isn’t fair, but how many things in life are?

I’m sure an anti-fat pill would stir up a lot of controversy, but I can’t see much wrong with it. You could argue that it would give people an excuse to over-consume food when other areas of the world are starving, but that seems to be happening regardless. If worse came to worse, we could just rise the price of corn syrup. An anti-fat pill would be the diet equivalent of birth control. We use condoms and birth control patches so we can enjoy all the pleasures of sex without having 20 children or growing genital warts like cauliflower. An anti-fat pill would let you enjoy as much double-cheese pizza and strawberry cheesecake as you like without the negative side-effect of obesity. I have no idea if it would also lower your risk of heart disease or diabetes too, but if I’m making up magic pills lets just say that it does.

So, if there were a magic anti-fat pill that made your cells run in circles endlessly building and breaking down proteins, would you take it? I probably would, but I also think I’d eat healthy most of the time anyway. I feel so much better when I do. Back when I ate junk food all the time I often felt sleepy or moody. Though I have to wonder if I would ever have figured that out if I could just take a pill before eating a box of cookies. There are advantages to a well-balanced diet that have nothing to do with how fat you are. That doesn’t come in a pill – yet.

* That’s not a spoiler by the way. They open up the movie by telling you she’s dead. And she coughs up blood and foreshadowing all through the film.

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25 Comments

john • September 5, 2007 at 8:28 am

The result would be a bunch of lazy couch potatoes strapping on the feed bag. Ugh, hope I never see it in my lifetime – the exercise I am forcing myself to get is neccessary, if we had a magic pill I guess I wouldn’t be incented to get out of the house much except to eat. No thanks.

Good analogy to birth control.

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Scale Junkie • September 5, 2007 at 8:44 am

The Diet industry makes billions a year, I wonder how hard companies who make those billions a year will fight to keep any anti-fat pill out of our hands.

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Debbi • September 5, 2007 at 9:15 am

Drug companies would probably charge so much for their anti-fat miracle cure that only skinny Hollywood celebs could afford it!

I’m pretty much against using medicine for “lifestyle” conditions. But I’ve been struggling so hard and for so long, I might make an exception if someone wanted to use me in a clincial trial. Heh.

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Mia • September 5, 2007 at 9:46 am

IF……I could be sure they wouldn’t change their mind 10 years down the road about the pill being safe, then HELL YEAH, I’d take the damn pill! What are you crazy? Why the hell wouldn’t you?! (You can still exercise and eat healthily, the pill won’t change that!)

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Flora • September 5, 2007 at 9:46 am

I happen to be one of those weirdos who thinks the birth-control pill hasn’t been a 100% good thing. But it certainly has saved a lot of people a lot of misery. The anti-fat pill would probably be the same way.

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psychsarah • September 5, 2007 at 10:06 am

While some days I love the idea of “magic pills” and am briefly tempted to purchase the latest weight loss miracle (though I haven’t yet), I have witnessed the crazy side effects of many medically necessary drugs/treatments, and sometimes they seem worse than the ailment itself. I would be quite wary of what effect such a “magic pill” would have on other systems of the body, since we, as humans, are more complicated than mice. However, if we are truly talking magic here, I guess there would be no side effects… ahhhh only in my dreams…

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TeaMouse • September 5, 2007 at 10:51 am

Even if they could make a magic pill to keep us all thin, we wouldn’t be healthy.

One way I look at being overweight is that I know I need to lose weight and I know I am unhealthy – it’s blatantly obvious when I look into the mirror – but what about that skinny person who can eat cake all day and not gain weight? Do they even worry about their cholesterol and blood pressure, probably not.

There are moments though, and I won’t deny it when I wish it was as simple as taking a pill. I have a lot of work ahead of me and I keep thinking I can’t succeed – then I see people like you and I know success is a possibility.

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Katharine • September 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Yeah, I’d probably take the pill, but I’m with you, PastaQueen—I’d still eat healthy and exercise. I know my family’s medical history all too well!

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Marianne • September 5, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Right now? No way.

Ask me again in a year, maybe my answer will be different.

It seems too simplistic. I worry that too many people in our societies (Canada and the US) would use pills like that as an excuse to eat all crap, all the time, and then no one is really any better off.

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MaryK • September 5, 2007 at 12:31 pm

I’m surprised at the resistance to this concept! I would TOTALLY take the pill! I’ve taken birth control pills for 30 years now, and it hasn’t made me madly promiscuous. To the contrary, I’m happily monogamous and glad to be rid of the worry about pregnancy. I think the anti-fat pill would be similar: I’d take it, I’d be thin, but I’d still want to eat healthy food and exercise because, just like marriage and monogamy, it’s the lifestyle that fits me.

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G.G. • September 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm

I think I agree with MaryK here. You know, if my body’s been working against me genetically from the get-go, I could see the pill as an off-set to a natural “handicap” when it comes to losing weight (I’m using “handicap” in the sense of a golf handicap).

I do agree with the other people who say that they’d still want to eat well and exercise for health reasons. I think I would, too.

I honestly think, too, that taking away the “forbidden/bad” aura of certain types of food might decrease their power to attract. If consumption’s not really dangerous, it might be less tempting.

And yes, I am very messed up (mentally speaking).

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ann • September 5, 2007 at 2:18 pm

My first reaction is Hell, yes!

But I’ve seen so many meds that were promoted as safe and ended up having nasty side effects that once I came down from my dreams of snarfing my way through endless rows of cheesecake, I’d probably pass until the magic pill had been on the market a long, long time.

(Sigh.)

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Susan • September 5, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Hmm… you know what they say in the consumer rights field – if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Remember Phen-fen?

And even if the pill prevented you from gaining fat, presumably you’d still have to work out to gain muscle. Think of all the skinny-fat-fat-fat people!

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d • September 5, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Glamorous shot on your About page!!!

When did that happen? Did you blog on that and I missed it? You look so adorable!!

PQ – Thanks! I got some pics taken for my author photo. I’ll blog about it eventually.

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K • September 5, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Well, I think I’d take the pill. After it had been around long enough that I was sure it was safe.

But that said… I don’t use hormonal birth control, even though I have horrible periods and it isn’t convenient for me to get pregnant right now, so who knows? Maybe I _would_ decide to do without drugs. After all, I still exercise now despite the fact that it hasn’t (so far) made me skinny. Stronger and fitter, yes, but I’d still need to exercise for that.

I think the existence of such a pill would REALLY stigmatise being fat, though, even more than is already the case. It would probably be a sign of being either very poor or deeply eccentric. Being fat would be seen as a choice (some people already believe this, of course…)

Given that, life would be hard if you were resistant to the drug – and probably some people would be!

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jae • September 5, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Pills, pills, pills. I don’t think these pills will work for everyone. Some people will have to either lose weight the ‘old fashion’ way or be fat. I have been on two different blood pressure meds and still have high blood pressure. Dispite what people want to believe a pill is not a cure-all. But if I’m still alive when this magic pill comes out I may try it. Who knows.

Finally Moulan Rouge sounds interesting. I may watch it.

(I read this same article on MSNBC and wondered what you would have to say about it.) :) ~j

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kathryn • September 5, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Sounds freaky to me. None of these things come without side effects.

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Jenny • September 5, 2007 at 8:06 pm

How much can we trust that any magic pill wouldn’t eventually kill us? I prefer to use “old school” advise and continue trying to eat well and excercise.

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LB From BufaD • September 5, 2007 at 9:14 pm

You know, I don’t think so.

First, it will be too late for me too. Second, I’m sure there will be all KINDS of horribly unpleasant side effects — like compulsive gambling! I actually heard that one on a drug for Restless Leg Syndrome (WTF is that!?) and thought I was buggin’ but when the ad came on again, I paid closer attention, and I heard right. You take a pill to make your legs feel less “restless” and you are compelled to have sex or gamble. What the hell!!!?

As much as I’d love a miracle weight loss that meant I wouldn’t have to eat less and move more, I just don’t think that will ever happen.

PQ – LOL! Thank goodness I was just fat and I didn’t have restless leg syndrome.

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Israel • September 6, 2007 at 12:53 am

keep in mind that its not all about just being fat or skinny, i try to think of it as being healthy or not. there are large nfl players that are more in shape than the average person.

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Cindy • September 6, 2007 at 7:01 am

Hi PQ,

No pill for me. The reason I started this weight loss journey in the first place was to avoid a pill (my blood pressure was creeping up and up and my doctor was threatening and I watch my mother line up all her pills every day and I decided it wasn’t for me). Besides, there are SO MANY, MANY, Many reasons that people overeat. And a pill will not help your mental health. So, no. No pill, magic or otherwise. Depending on something like that would make me feel beholden, and I can’t tolerate that. Stubborn, maybe, but that is who I am.

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kathyj333 • September 6, 2007 at 8:29 am

I like you must be right. Soon we will have a pill for everything, including obesity.

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Kate • September 7, 2007 at 1:14 pm

I completely agree that a pill to control fat and prevent overweight and obese people would make the world a better place. After all, obesity is only the physical manifestation of a bad diet. If we didn’t have to worry about getting fat, we’d still have to worry about eating healthy. So it doesn’t mean we can eat nothing but crap because we still need nutrients. So it would be up to the individual to eat healthily to maintain good body function and energy. It’s a bit like not requiring a college degree to do a job as long as the person is capable. They’d still need to do the training, whether or not they had a certificate to show they had, but rather would need it just to function.

It would probably help a lot of unhealthy people as well, as just because you are thin does not mean you are fit or healthy. It is possible for overweight people to be healthier then thin people within their normal BMI range because they don’t have the visual motivation of being fat or thin.

If you take out fat (ha, literally) then you force *everyone* to become aware of how they actually feel and that is a far better motivation to be healthy and eat the right things.

And yes, it does mean that every so often you can have a triple brownie sundae without any guilt.

*steps off soap box*

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virg • September 7, 2007 at 1:14 pm

“They” already make a pill for this that you can get a prescription for at a very reasonable price. It’s called Thyroxine and it’s a thyroid hormone replacement for the thyroid gland which controls your metabolism. If you are overweight, often tired, constipated, and have a lot of trouble losing fat even when you are eating reasonable amounts and exercising daily, you may want to get your thyroid level (TSH) checked. Millions of people are sub-clinical hypothyroid and don’t even know it. There is help.

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Jenna • September 9, 2007 at 11:15 pm

As a 31 year old expecting my 5th child, I wonder if the fat pills would ever fail like birth control pills. (Disclaimer: I have successfully planned 3/5 of my children and I always wanted a big family, but…) Note: baby #5 was a big surprise.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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