Anyone who has even been on a diet before knows that eating less eventually leads to feeling full more quickly. For people who have problems restricting their portion sizes, the onset of reduced gastric capacity (aka a shrunken stomach) is a blessing.
But getting to that point can be challenging; so what if you could just arrive at a reduced appetite in an instant?
That’s the idea behind the latest in gastric gizmos: the Obalon balloon. So simple in concept it’s surprising that no one came up with it before. Or maybe they did, but it seemed too whimsical to follow through with.
The unorthodox device is comprised of a pill containing a deflated balloon. The pill, connected to a thin tube, is swallowed, the balloon is inflated in the stomach, and the tube is removed. Presto, the stomach is full and the patient will be unable to eat as much as before.
According to the product’s website, up to three balloons can be swallowed over a three month period – with placement determined by a patient’s fullness and weight loss progress – and are removed at the end of the 12-week period. The makers claim that overweight and obese patients can lose up to 20 pounds with the balloon.
And according to British researchers who have taken the device through trials, it works.
“This balloon will act to educate them about portion size and retrain their brain and their mindset a little,” Dr. Sally Norton, a bariatric surgeon at Spire Hospital, Bristol, told CBS News.
Right now the treatment is not approved in the United States by the FDA; but for patients in the U.K. who want to try it, it costs around $3,300, reports Sky News. For two balloons, it can cost up to $5,000.
Although it sounds like a less complicated option compared to other gastric surgeries, some experts note that it may not be a good resolution for chronic obesity. It may change eating habits, but upon removal of the balloon, what is the patient left with?
“When they take the balloons out, what happens is the stomach hasn’t shrunk,” Tim Bean, a fitness expert, told CBS News. “So you’re left with the same size stomach, or possibly even bigger than there was beforehand.”
CBS News’ Alphonso Van Marsh reports in the video below:
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