It's Like a Free Lunch -- But Without the Calories

08/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011


"It's a little bit like a free lunch without the calories," says Dr. Ronald Evans, lead researcher of the Salk group. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... exercise in a pill!

Wait -- we've been promised this before. A pharmaceutical answer to America's obesity problem. Just pop a pill and watch your waistline whittle. In fact, I think GNC owes its very existence to our obsession with the Magic Pill.

But for all the pills being discussed today -- Aicar and the quotable GW1516 -- there actually is research to back up the spurious claims. Mice, jogging on twee treadmills, were able to improve their endurance and muscular response to exercise by astonishing amounts. The first pill worked all on its own while the second pill did actually require the lazy rodents to exercise but it amped up their workouts like no Hydroxycut or Stacker ever could.

All of this is very encouraging, so say the researchers, for people with medial conditions that make it hard to exercise like frailty or diabetes or... obesity. But for a pill claiming to help with America's Most Reported Problem, the research says nothing about weight loss.

Sure the pills could help people exercise longer and harder. Professional athletes everywhere are wetting themselves. (Don't get too excited, governing bodies are already aware of the drugs and are developing tests to detect them.) But as anyone who has exercised longer and harder knows, more exercise equals more hunger. The more calories you burn, the more food your body wants to take in.

So for the average couch potato, taking these pills, in true industry form, would probably lighten nothing but their wallet. But hey, now they can sprint to the freezer! Although we'll have to wait for the human trials to see for sure I'm betting these pills will not be The Answer everyone is looking for.