Scientists Develop Injections That Fight Cravings

On October 23, millions of Americans struggling with their weight read the news and felt hope, when it was revealed that researchers had developed an injection that has the potential to block hunger signals, banish cravings, and, reportedly, help people lose weight.

The injection takes dieting one step further, allowing people to not only ignore their body's hunger signals, but literally suppress their cravings with a syringe. The proteins in the injection evidently mingle with neurons in the digestive system, sending signals to the brain that it's already eaten.

Monkeys that were injected with the protein, called GDF15, ate 40 percent less and lost 10 percent of their body fat over a six week period.

No long-term studies were conducted.

No human trials have yet been conducted.

According to human studies that have been completed, attempts to lose weight have been linked to worse health outcomes, negative mental health complications, and increased levels of damaging stress hormones in the long term. Additionally, 97 percent of those who lose weight through dieting gain the weight back within three years — and then some. The idea that simply eating less is the solution to health problems is both outdated and problematic.

When you eat less, weight loss might be a short-term effect. However, for 97 percent of people who lose weight by restricting their eating, that weight comes back. Your metabolism adapts, your brain chemistry changes, and the body does what it needs to do to get back to its ideal weight — not the ideal weight you've constructed based on cultural pressures or weight loss goals.

This is precisely what happened when scientists discovered a hormone that seemed to have the same effect as this protein — leptin. They created leptin injections and tested them on mice, finding that when mice were injected with more of the hormone, they felt less hungry. When the injections were tested on humans, however, researchers were immensely disappointed. Human bodies grew to be leptin resistant — meaning that the brain stopped "hearing" the fullness signals after a certain point, causing even more overeating.

Now, scientists are trying again — this time, with a protein called GDF15. But the narrative sounds eerily similar.

This new invention seems a disappointing and sure signal that Americans still view food as the enemy causing obesity and other health problems. On the other hand, listening and responding to hunger signals, a practice called intuitive eating, has been shown in dozens of studies to cause lasting health benefits and lower incidences of disease.

Perhaps we should all just eat when we're hungry and not worry about it — the worrying causes health problems for sure.