Balloon-based Obesity Treatment On The Horizon

A new study suggests that swallowing a balloon-filled capsule can help fight obesity more effectively than orthodox methods such as diet plans. The researchers presented the study regarding this balloon-based obesity treatment at the Digestive Disease Week on 24th May, 2016.

The treatment, called the Obalon 6-Month Balloon System, involves individuals swallowing the balloon-filled capsule, after which the doctor inflates it with nitrogen gas through a catheter tube attached to the capsule. Once the balloon is filled with gas, it reaches a volume slightly larger than that of a 237 ml cup, which makes the individual feel fuller sooner.

The study was conducted on 185 obese people whose body mass index (BMI) was between 30-40. The process involved swallowing a total of three balloons (a new one every three weeks), and then removing all the balloons after three months.

A separate control group of 181 people underwent a placebo treatment, in which they swallowed placebo sugar pills which doctors pretended to fill with gas so that the group would feel as if they were receiving an actual treatment.

Both parties also took help from a nutritionist to help them lose weight. After six months, both parties lost weight. The first group lost an average of 6.8% of their body weight whereas the placebo group lost 3.5% of their body weight. The study also showed that 64% of the group that received the actual treatment lost at least 5% of their total weight whereas only 32% of the placebo group met that target.

Dr Shelby Sullivan, the study’s co-author and Director of Bariatric Endoscopy at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in St Louis, Missouri, said in a statement, “Our research shows that the studied balloon system can help patients lose almost twice as much weight as with lifestyle changes alone. This is important because weight loss is very difficult, and a significant number of people are not successful in achieving their weight loss goals with diet changes and exercise.”

Sullivan noted that because the three Obalon balloons are given in stages, the system gives the stomach time to adjust to having the balloons in place. Each time another balloon is added, it takes up more space.

There were, however some noticeable side effects of the treatment. Some participants reported suffering from abdominal cramps and nausea, but most participants said these effects were mild to moderate.

The Obalon balloon treatment is yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is approved in several European countries and in Mexico.

The research was funded by Obalon Therapeutics.

Other Balloon-Based Obesity Fighting Technologies

This is not the first time that a balloon-based technology was developed that helped put an end to obesity.  The Reshape Dual Balloon System was approved by the FDA in 2015. It was a bit inconvenient and used an older technology compared to Obalon, since Reshape was inserted using an endoscope and used a liquid instead of nitrogen gas. However, both of these balloons have to be removed from the mouth by an experienced doctor.

Another balloon-based treatment technology, Ellipse, is looking to get approved by the FDA. Ellipse also comes in capsule form but unlike Obalon, it is filled with liquid instead of gas. However, it has an edge over Obalon in that it gets automatically deflated after four months and is passed out of the user’s system.

A small study of Ellipse involving 34 people found that patients lost an average of 9.5% of their body weight — about 10kgs after four months.

Effective Alternatives To Balloon-based Obesity Treatment

There are various routine yet effective methods of fighting chronic obesity other than the balloon technique. These alternative methods should be used since they are tried and tested and are cheaper than the balloon technique.

A healthy diet should be established. A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables and less sodium, fats and sugar. Fruits and vegetables help fight many diseases such as blood pressure, cancer, scurvy and atherosclerosis. They are low in fat and calories and are the source of many important nutrients and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, They also prevent heart diseases and provide fiber that helps prevent constipation.

A high amount of sodium causes a sodium buildup in the system. This buildup forces the heart and kidneys to work faster and harder, which increases risk of heart and kidney diseases.

The most unhealthy and dangerous ingredient of such foods is trans fats. Trans fats have high melting points which makes them harder to break down and dissolve. That’s why trans fats can get stuck in coronary arteries thus greatly increasing the risk of heart attacks, diabetes and strokes.

Excess amounts of sugars in fast food make the liver work extra hard in converting glucose into glycogen. This extra workload, in turn, makes it difficult for the liver to convert the stored glycogen into glucose during high energy situations. It also makes the body resistive to insulin which greatly increases the risk for diabetes.

An efficient exercise routine should be followed. Daily exercise involving intense workouts such as cardio and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has proven to be more effective than long hours of walking.

In the end, simple math helps fight obesity — the amount of calories burnt should be greater than the number of calories consumed. Hence these orthodox tips might be more beneficial in the long run than balloon-based solutions.

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