The title of this article is a little facetious so let’s clear something up immediately. DO NOT swallow a balloon thinking you will lose weight. The information below will show a study that involves swallowing a “balloon” under medical supervision. DO NOT try to swallow a balloon as there are many things that can go wrong and can be detrimental to your health and life. So, as they say on television, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.
How did we get to this point?
In case you don’t get out much and interact with society, we are getting larger as a population. And not just in numbers, but rather by weight. Over 60% of Americans are overweight. Over 30% are considered obese. This disease is plaguing our society and most of it is self-inflicted and avoidable.
If you aren’t familiar with the body mass index (BMI), it’s a way to determine overall health by looking at your height and your weight. A score over 30 will categorize an individual as being obese. There are several health risk factors that accompany that label such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, some forms of obesity-related cancers, arthritis, along with dozens of other conditions and diseases. It has been shown that being categorized as obese with a BMI score of more than 30 can create a 50-100% increased risk of premature death compared to someone who falls in the healthy category of the BMI chart. If a score of 35 or higher is indicated, an individual at that point is categorized as having severe obesity. Statistics show that around 24 million Americans are labeled as severely obese.
Stomach surgeries/weight loss surgeries have now become extremely common in the United States. If you are suffering from obesity and can get your weight down low enough to put you in a somewhat healthy range, your doctor/surgeon can approve you for one of the surgery methods. These types of surgeries have been shown to be extremely effective as well as a long-lasting method to battle obesity. The risk involved with the surgery has significantly dropped as techniques have improved and now the risk of death is around 0.1% and the risk of complications only being about 4%.
The new stomach shrinking method?
We are all aware of stomach stapling, banding the stomach, and other methods currently used to help people lose weight. It now appears that there’s a new method catching on with great success where patients swallow a small inflatable device.
How this works is that a patient who is suffering from obesity is to swallow a gas-filled intragastric balloon capsule. The balloon is then inflated via a microcatheter to take up room in the stomach and make the individual feel full. A patient can have up to three balloons in their stomach at a time and may be placed within the first three months of the procedure. The more balloons they have (up to three) it’s designed to help the individual eat less food since there is less room available in the stomach to hold everything. This program also includes a diet to follow as well as a behavioral modification program to help patients change some of their bad habits when it comes to their health. In its entirety, this new gas-filled balloon treatment period lasts six months. On average, those who have had the procedure done has lost 1.9 times more weight when compared to individuals who only followed an exercise program and diet.
For this study researchers pulled in 387 participants who had a BMI score between 30 and 40 to take part in this double-blind randomize trial. The group was split in half where one group got the gas-filled balloon capsule and the other half had their capsule full of sugar and wasn’t inflated. Both capsules looked identical prior to being swallowed so there was no telling which was which to the naked eye. Each participant was to swallow three capsules over the course of 12 weeks—researchers had them swallow one capsule every three weeks. Every three weeks the participants also had to go attend 25 minutes of lifestyle therapy from a registered dietitian. After the six-month trial, all participants had their device removed from their stomach.
There was one side effect to the gas-filled balloon capsule procedure, and that was 90.8% of the participants suffered from mild or moderate nausea and abdominal cramping—all of which were considered non-serious events.
The researchers then computed the participants’ percent of total weight loss. The group who used the true gas-filled balloon capsule lost 6.81% compared to the control group who lost 3.59%. Amazingly enough, after six months of not having the balloons in their stomach following the study, the participants were able to maintain 89.5% of their total weight loss. Unlike many procedures where habits aren’t changed and weight is regained, this proved to be a very successful procedure to helping those suffering from obesity lose their weight, change their habits, and keep the weight off.
This new method was approved in September 2016 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One researcher mentioned, “The significant weight loss achieved with the Obalon 6-Month Balloon System is maintained at 12 months. This combination of lifestyle modification and balloon therapy provides a new low risk option for patients struggling with obesity.” Another researcher said, “There is no magic pill for obesity, but this swallowable balloon and other intragastric balloons may offer new hope to people who otherwise would not seek treatment or not have as good a result with diet and exercise alone. The balloon and other technologies may help to fill the therapeutic gaps between diet and exercise and medical therapy, and medical therapy and surgery, where the gaps are quite large.”
Materials provided by American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)