Cravings: Cracking the Code
Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Frank Greenway

Released: Monday, March 12, 2018

Cravings are pesky, and – let’s face it – sometimes they are overpowering.

Did you know?
Dr. Greenway moved to Baton Rouge from Mariana del Rey, California in January 1995 to start Pennington Biomedical's outpatient clinic.

What if it were easier to resist the urge for mid-afternoon pick-me-ups or ignore your nighttime sweet tooth?

That's what Dr. Frank Greenway is working toward. As Chief Medical Officer of the clinical trials unit at Pennington Biomedical, Dr. Greenway develops cost-effective obesity treatments including diets, herbal supplements, medical foods and medications.

One focus of Dr. Greenway’s career has been botanical research. That is, using plants to develop supplements to treat disease.

Botanical research is promising because obesity treatment in the form of supplements rather than drugs may break cost barriers to many people seeking obesity treatment, Dr. Greenway says. It also provides a platform to identify foods with medicinal properties.

"Some botanicals that are used as food may also have drug-like properties that are helpful to reduce blood sugar, blood pressure and body weight, Dr. Greenway says. “Food is generally presumed safe, and using food as medicine is appealing to many people."

A 2015 study found that a spinach extract curbed hunger in study participants after just one dose. In a study of 60 overweight and obese adults, those who took the extract felt more satisfied after a meal and had less desire for salty foods.

Another study analyzed the effects of a medicine called liraglutide and showed a significant drop in body weight in participants who took the medication. A proportion of that weight loss may be attributed to a reduced appetite, the study notes.

Dr. Greenway and his team are still hard at work discovering new treatments to control appetite.

Two medications—lorcaserin and phentermine—are both approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for weight management.

Dr. Greenway pioneered a trial that studied the effects of lorcaserin, phentermine, and a combination of the two on food cravings. His findings show that the combination is most effective at reducing cravings, thus reducing body weight in the participants.

Each participant completed a Food Craving Inventory (FCI) and Control of Eating Questionnaire (COEQ). Those who took the new combination of the two drugs experienced more significant reductions in hunger. The frequency and strength of food cravings were also reduced.

"“It’s my hope that one day there will be treatments for obesity that are as effective as treatments for other chronic diseases,” Dr. Greenway says. “For now, I’m happy to be taking part in the process."

The lorcaserin-phentermine study was funded by Eisai Inc. and published in Obesity as Editor’s Choice in February.

Q&A with Dr. Greenway

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I was just like every other young boy. I wanted to be a fireman or a cowboy or anything fun like that.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to pursue medicine? A: I've probably known since high school, when I realized i'd really taken an interest in things like biology, and I knew I wanted to work with people.

What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend? A: My wife and I enjoy going to football games. We always have Saints tickets. We also like to take day trips in and around Louisiana to explore.

Interested in participating in a clinical trial? Browse our currently enrolling studies to see how Pennington Biomedical can bring better health to you or your family.

If you'd like to receive e-mail updates about our other ongoing and upcoming studies, sign up here.

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit