Press Release: The Future of the Obesity Pill [Social Technologies]

Press release by Hope Gibbs
Client: Social ) Technologies
Image: e-magic [flickr]

DISCONTINUITY: THE OBESITY PILL

It is possible that new discoveries in pharmaceutical, medical, and genetic research could produce a medication that keeps users thin no matter what their diet or physical routine.

*Washington, DC, April 22, 2008*— Consumers have long hoped that medical and pharmacological research would lead to a so-called “fat pill,” an easy-to-use pharmaceutical answer to the growing scourge of obesity.

Social Technologies’ analyst Christopher Kent recently considered this possibility as part of our series on discontinuities (those sudden, sharp breaks that can strike consumers, business sectors, nations, or the world with disruptive force).

“The ideal solution would allow consumers to continue their regular eating and lifestyle behaviors without gaining weight,” Kent explains, noting two drugs in development, Rimonabant and Alli, offer some benefits of an anti-obesity pill, but neither is 100% effective–and both may have serious side effects.

The “fat pill” defined

It is possible that new discoveries in pharmaceutical, medical, and genetic research could produce a medication that keeps users thin no matter what their diet or physical routine, Kent explains.

“This could be accomplished in several ways: by speeding up metabolism to burn fat more quickly; by blocking the absorption of fat, sugar, and empty calories; suppressing appetite; or by a combination of all three of these,” he says. “This kind of drug would force consumers to rethink their entire relationship to food, diet, health, and exercise. It could also have profound impacts on body image, body aesthetics, and even fashion. One result of such a drug could be the disestablishment of weight as a primary indicator of health, such that being thin is no longer equated with being healthy.”

What is the probability that an obesity pill will be developed?

Unlike infectious disease, which often has a single trigger, the development of a seemingly magical antiobesity pill is hampered by the fact that weight gain does not have a single cause, but results from a number of metabolic factors, all of which will need to be successfully addressed or countered for such a pill to work.
Kent believes the development of a pill that easily makes one thin with few or no side effects may depend on a fuller knowledge of the human genome and human metabolism. “This fuller picture of the genome will not be ready for years, pushing any successful launch of an anti-obesity pill to the long term,” he says.

Consumer impact

Certainly, there are many long- and short-term implications for an obesity pill:

• A pill that relieves consumers of their obligation to eat healthfully—at least for aesthetic reasons—would change ideas about what is and is not a desirable diet, with consumers possibly turning away from foods like fresh produce.

• An obesity pill is not necessarily a “fit” pill. While it might help consumers eliminate overweight as a problem, other nutrition-related diseases—diabetes, hypertension, etc.—could spike if the pill allowed eaters to indulge themselves.

• The obesity pill could create two types of consumers: those who are naturally thin and those who are pharmaceutically thin.

• A successful “fat pill” could also trigger a fall-off in physical activity, undermining the exercise industry as consumers substitute ease for hard work.

• Any successful obesity pill would also need to avoid the side effects—depression, suicidal ideation, loose/uncontrolled bowels—that plague current anti-obesity pharmaceuticals.

Learn more
To talk to Christopher Kent about this discontinuity and its relevance to major business sectors, contact Hope Gibbs, Social Technologies’ leader of corporate communications: hope.gibbs@socialtechnologies.com.

About ) The Discontinuities Series
Social Technologies recently released a series of briefs called Discontinuities, which are those sudden, sharp breaks that can strike consumers, business sectors, nations, or the world with disruptive force. Exactly when, where, or how such events will occur is inherently hard to foresee. This brief explores one potential discontinuity in the food sector. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for more of our Discontinuities press
releases regarding the health and mobility industries.

Christopher Kent ) Futurist
Christopher Kent is a writer/analyst with more than 10 years’ experience tracking emerging public policy and social policy issues, primarily with Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting), a leading geopolitical-intelligence service. His expertise spans topics such as consumer and industry trends in the energy sector, the future of China, consumer lifestyles in Europe, and the impacts of microcredit in World 3. Christopher also oversees Social
Technologies’ internship program. He has an MA in the history of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance from the University of Toronto, and an undergraduate degree in history and English from Marquette University. Areas of expertise: Media and entertainment, tourism and leisure.

About ) Social Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington DC, London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. For information visit www.socialtechnologies.com, our blog: http://changewaves.socialtechnologies.com, and our newsletter:
www.socialtechnologies.com/changewaves.

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