What is a placebo effect?


The placebo effect is a phenomenon where an individual experiences a real physiological or psychological improvement in their health after receiving a treatment that has no therapeutic effect. This can result from a person's expectations and beliefs about the treatment, even if it's an inactive substance like a sugar pill.

For example, discusses how telling people that a pill will improve their memory can lead to actual memory improvement in a group compared to those who were told they received a placebo. This shows that even if the pill contains no active medical ingredients, the belief that it does can lead to real changes in physiology and performance. These effects are not only limited to subjective feelings but also encompass measurable physiological responses, such as changes in hormone secretion like ghrelin, which is related to hunger signals 1 2.

Similarly, belief effects, a related concept, are changes in physiology and behavior that result from what a person believes about a treatment or condition, even without deception. For example, telling hotel workers that their day-to-day activities are good for their health can result in them reporting lower blood pressure, losing body fat, and enjoying their work more, regardless of no actual change in behavior or routine 3.

The Placebo Effect

Peter and Andrew discuss the placebo effect and its impact on individuals, as well as the unique experiences and perspectives gained during medical school.

The Peter Attia Drive Podcast

270 ‒ Journal club with Andrew Huberman: metformin, power of belief, & how to read scientific papers

In summary, the placebo effect and belief effects demonstrate the power of the mind to invoke real changes in the body, illustrating the interconnected nature of belief and physical health.


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is a Canadian-American physician trained at Stanford and Johns Hopkins, notable for his work in the field of longevity medicine. He founded Early Medical and is known for his book 'Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity.' Attia hosts the podcast 'The Drive', which delves into science and health topics, and he has made appearances on various other podcasts including the . His notable accomplishments include his groundbreaking Maui to Lanai swim and his bestseller book on longevity.