Believe you are healthy: A Ted Talk on the placebo effect by Dr Alia Crum

Dr Alia Crum, a Harvard graduate, speaks at TedX Traverse City about the power of the placebo effect.


She talks about some fascinating placebo studies in the talk, including:


  • The exact dose of morphine was administered to two patient groups; one group was given morphine by their pre-loaded syringe – the other group by their doctor. The ones that had been treated by the doctor reported significantly less pain levels.

Dr Crum notes that the treatment was highly effective when the patient expected to be treated.

She states that the placebo effect ‘is a powerful, robust and consistent demonstration of our expectation to heal.’


  • She recountplacebo effect videos a study where they tested the perceived effects of exercise with women who were on their feet all day long – cooking, cleaning, for example. But a 1/3rd of these women who were interviewed said they got no exercise at all, because they were not perceiving their work as exercise. Once they educated one group of women on the fact they were actually receiving significant exercise benefits, amazing things happened. They lost weight and body fat, and even reported liking their job more!

Dr Crum asks is there a direct, immediate connection to our mindset and body?


  • As part of her own placebo effect research she did a study where she gave people a milkshake and $75. They had to get hooked up to an IV, though, so it wasn’t all good. They were measuring for ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’ which drops once we have eaten. They gave them the exact same milkshake, but one time they gave them a 0% fat shake and a ‘decadent’ 620 calorie shake. Their ghrelin levels dropped three times as much when the ‘decadent’ milkshake was given.

It seems to be what we believe, expect, and think about the foods we eat that determines the body’s response.

What do you think?