Yet another unlikely cure for obesity makes headlines

genetic research abstract background

Might there be a magic pill for obesity? Something you can take that allows you to overeat and not gain weight? In spite of hopeful headlines, the answer is “Not anytime soon.”

In a recent study, researchers disabled a gene called RCAN1 in mice. Mice without the gene can eat large quantities of food without gaining weight. The lead researcher of the study, Professor Damien Keating of Flinders University, says that based on what they found in the study, they hope to develop a pill that targets the function of RCAN1 which may result in weight loss in humans, too.

Science Daily: Gene that lets you eat as much as you want holds promise against obesity

Vice: A new drug could let us eat anything without gaining weight

Obesity rates are skyrocketing like never before, and Prof. Keating is hoping his work might eventually turn things around. He declares:

The ideal would be to take some sort of pill that didn’t require you to watch your diet, that didn’t require you to exercise. Now, that might seem like a pipe dream, but the findings that we have out of this mouse study at least indicate a novel pathway that we might be able to target.

We have previously looked into mice studies (e.g here and here) and the take-home message is essentially that we can’t expect too much when a study is based on findings in mice. The path from mouse studies to trials in humans is long and expensive. For safety reasons, the hoops are many and the hurdles are high. Very few promising research findings make it all the way through the clinical trial process to become an approved drug.

Even if (and that’s a big if) we could gorge on unhealthy foods and then just take a pill to avoid gaining weight, would we really want to? There are so many other health effects of food beyond weight. If we could develop and take this magic pill, might we end up thin but metabolically unhealthy?

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do for your health is to give your body the best fuel (food) suitable for you. Why not try a low-carb diet?


A rare mutation: The answer to obesity?

‘Surgery in a pill’: The latest crazy way to lose weight

Does eating fat make us fat?

Could a keto diet increase the risk of diabetes (if you’re a mouse)?

Low carb


  1. Catheryn
    Not to mention the side effects that may occur if the RCAN1 gene is disabled. There is no doubt a good reason why wild-type mice have this gene.
  2. Paul
    There’s no doubt in my mind that 10 years after such a pill we’re approved the long term side effects would come to light
  3. Annette
    ....but would it work the same for "gorging" on high carbs? I went to the we site and read that they gorge on high fat foods. Well, although I don't gorge, my food intake, being KETO is mainly high fat. I also agree with these 2 posters about side effects.
  4. KWOK
    That gene has been inside animals and humans for millions of years. Why can't we eat the foods that would not make use obese instead of attacking the human gene. If this gene can be manipulated, I am afraid more aggressive gene-altering plans will follow.
  5. Luis
    If we could develop and take this magic pill, might we end up thin but metabolically unhealthy? yesss I would in a second...

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