A new pill on the market, Obalon, promises to mimic the results of weight loss surgery for its users. After swallowed, the device inflates inside the stomach and will stay there for up to three months before being removed. The maker of the pill, Obalon Therapeutics, claims that both overweight and obese patients alike can lose up to 20 pounds in just three months. This is because the supplement will make the user feel full faster, so they will eat less. Users can take up to three balloons or pills in a 12-week (3 months) period to help speed up weight loss, the company reports.
The pill is only available for experimental use in the United States; however Austria, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain have it available for the general public. Not all experts are convinced that Obalon works well, however the idea of finding alternatives to weight loss surgery is soaring. This is because the procedure often can be expensive and for some patients, risky. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), some of these alternative weight loss procedures may one day be a viable alternative, but they don’t think they are yet.
Another alternative is stunning the stomach and intestine lining with Botox to reduce hunger or chemically scaring the area to slow digestion. Both of these ideas haven’t worked out well according to the ASMBS and their Emerging Technologies Committee. They say that the intragastric balloon, similar to Obalon, shows more promise than prior alternatives. It is inserted into the stomach and inflated so there is less room for food, thus reducing the amount consumed.
A Brazilian study studied nearly 100 moderately to severely overweight individuals who had this inflated device implanted with an endoscope. Their study found that patients lost an average of 20% of their body weight in a six-month period. While they have been approved other places in the world, they have yet to be approved in the United States. This is because while they can be easily removed, they can cause unintentional deflation.
Another ASMBS weight loss method is the EndoBarrier, a long tube that looks like a plastic bag. This device is attached to the bottom of the stomach and snakes through a portion of the small intestine so food doesn’t come back into contact with the intestine itself. The University Of Colorado School Of Medicine will perform 25 FDA Endobarrier trials with 500 patients later in 2014. They believe that preventing food from coming into contact with the intestinal wall, which delays digestion, will alter glucose regulation in the intestine. This will help people to eat less.
While the EndoBarrier was approved in South America, Australia and Europe in 2006, it is expected to be approved in the United States by 2017. Clinical trials show that patients can expect to lose an average of 20% of body weight in less than a year. They hope this device will help to reduce or eliminate the use of anti-diabetes medications in many patients.