Placebo effect of food is a new research topic. In fact, researchers are becoming aware that foods can be health factors or disease factors. Although what we eat affects our well-being or pain, the truth is that there are also fantasies that affect this.
There are foods that people advertise as if they were magical. With other foods, people mention certain specific effects that affect a particular health or organ area. Therefore, they seem to work well for some people.
These effects, miraculous or only partially useful, are what got us started talking about the placebo effect of food. Is it possible that something is happening with food that is reminiscent of what is happening with placebo medicine? Let’s look at that.
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Placebo effect of food
We have known about the placebo effect since 1800 thanks to the British physician John Haygarth. Since then, specialists have used it systematically. In fact, they use it both for testing new drugs and as a treatment in itself.
This effect occurs when someone takes a pill and thinks it is medication. However, it is not real medicine, although the person often experiences an improvement.
For example, we know today that expensive placebos are more effective than cheap placebos. Although it is a sugar pill, it is actually more effective if it is expensive. Similarly, researchers have found that red pills have better effects than blue.
For a long time, people considered the placebo effect as a result of suggestion or “false medicine”. Recently, however, using modern tools, studies show that placebo really generates positive changes in the brain. In addition, this helps people to be healed.
Studies on the placebo effect of food
Placebo effect of food is a recent area of research. One of its pioneers is Dr. Alia Crum, clinical psychologist and researcher at Columbia Business School. One of her most famous experiments has to do with calorie intake.
A group of volunteers were told they would drink a 640-calorie milkshake. Another group was told that the calorie content of the milkshake was 140. However, both milkshakes were the same and actually contained 340 calories.
Those who drank the milkshake and thought it had a high calorie content quickly felt full. The other group, however, began to get hungry.
Other similar research has shown that people can even lose weight or gain weight from a similar situation. These other studies show that there may be a placebo effect of food. The belief that food will cause a certain effect affects people so much that this effect happens.
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The strength of the placebo effect
Advances in research into the placebo effect of food have shown fascinating results in recent years. One of the most interesting findings is that this effect is not only psychological. In fact, it works at the biochemical and molecular level.
At one of the recent world conferences on the placebo effect, held in Leiden, Germany, they showed MRI images. They showed that there are areas in the brain that are activated by taking a sugar pill if the doctor suggests it is medication.
Kathryn T. Hall, molecular biologist, along with Ted J. Kaptchuk, head of the Placebo Studies program at Harvard Medical School , are two of the most advanced scientists in the subject. Their research says:
Effects on diet
We are still far from fully understanding the placebo effect. In drug experiments, placebo typically works on one-third of the volunteers. This means that it has real effect. However, researchers still have much more to discover.
In terms of placebo effect of food, it means that food for humans is not just a sum of the substances eaten. There is something symbolic about eating. Therefore, people have lots of different beliefs and feelings around it.
For the same reason that Dr. Alia Crum shows, the effect of food on our bodies depends a lot on the belief in certain foods. If we think they’ll hurt us, they probably will. In addition, the same thing happens the other way around. All indications are that the placebo effect works with food.