Hunger is caused by signals from the brain, so is there a way to suppress the signal of hunger in the same way we suppress the signal of pain with painkillers?

If people felt less hungry, they would eat less and find it easier to lose weight, so why aren't there pharmaceutical hunger suppressants yet?

  • $\begingroup$ I think the problem here is with the assertation that "If people felt less hungry, they would eat less..." Seems to me that most overweight people eat (and choose what to eat) for a variety of reasons. Actual hunger is low on the list. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


The two main factors are:

  1. Hunger is more complex to treat than pain (more pathways, more potential targets), and I would argue against your suggestion that we are good at treating pain: despite the term "painkiller" we aren't great at blocking pain except for with local anesthetics that block all nervous activity (lidocaine for example). For systemic pain relief, there are lots of long-term efficacy issues with either opiates or NSAIDs, and that isn't even taking into account:
  2. Side effects. Amphetamines are great for suppressing appetite. They also mess with the cardiovascular system, are habit-forming, and cause psychological issues. "Fen-phen" is a famous example of an anti-obesity drug that had major side effects leading to massive lawsuits. A more recent supplement, Ephedra, had many of the same problems and was banned by the US FDA for those reasons.

There are some drugs that are used to treat obesity, but many of these have come into regulatory issues with side effects and are only used in special cases like in diabetics or as an absolute last resort.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 DNP comes to mind. Pharmaceuticals are much more dangerous than diet and exercise which, in many (most?) cases, is a cure. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 22:30

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