It is no secret that the Western World is struggling to curb its weight problem. Now, losing weight may be as simple as swallowing a pill with a balloon inside of it.
A device has been developed where individuals swallow a pill with a deflated balloon stuck inside, which is attached to a catheter. Once inside the stomach, a doctor will inflate the balloon with saline and the catheter will be removed. Several months later, the balloon can be removed by piercing them with a needle. The device is designed to help keep hunger cravings to a minimum. Those who still have issues overeating with one balloon inside of them may actually swallow multiple balloons.
The balloons themselves may be removed after several months, in which case the individual may choose to put another balloon inside. At this point in time the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the device, but the California company Obalon, who created it, is hoping the organization will be soon. Obalon is currently approved in Europe. Partaking in the ‘procedure’ will run you $7000 or more.
Although the balloons are not currently approved by the FDA, they have been studied in small pilot groups of obese patients. The device is not as effective as a drastic weight loss surgery, but patients who participated in research lost at least seven percent of their body weight in six months. Doctors say that this is often enough to decrease blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
To test their new device, doctors worked with 387 people, half of whom were given sugar pills and the other half the actual balloons. The participants were unaware whether or not they received a placebo or not, and doctors still went through the procedure of blowing up the balloon, even if none was present.
While all patients received weight loss counseling, those with the real balloons lost an average of 6.8 percent of their body weight compared to those who received a sugar pill. The latter group lost 3.6 percent of their body weight on average.
“The balloons work by taking up space in your stomach and making you feel full earlier in the meal,” says study author Dr. Shelby Sullivan, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Patients definitely feel more full and eat less with it.”
Despite these positive effects, most patients who received the balloons became nauseated or vomited, though this may only last for the first week.
The device works not only by filling the stomach and making the patient feel fuller, but also by ensuring the stomach empties at a slower rate. Each patient will swallow an average of three balloons during a course of treatment for maximum effect.
But while these devices may help patients feel fuller, they won’t curb cravings or force patients to eat healthy foods and exercise. Diet and exercise will always prevail – at least for a long, long time.