The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new obesity treatment device that can remove 30% of food from the stomach after a meal to help with weight loss.
Unnecessary contents of the stomach is sucked through a tube attached to a pump and disposed of in the toilet, bypassing most of the digestive tract.
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While the mere thought of the food draining tube may be enough to turn most stomachs, the device is being mooted as a sustainable weight loss alternative to surgery.
The FDA noted it should not be used on patients with eating disorders, nor should it be used for short durations in those who are moderately overweight.
To use the food disposal machine, a tube first needs to be surgically inserted in the stomach. This is connected to a disk-shaped port valve placed on the abdomen.
About half an hour after the patient has eaten, they can open the abdominal valve and drain their stomach’s contents through the tube into the toilet. This process can take up to 10 minutes.
The procedure to insert the tubing takes about 15 minutes and can be performed under “twilight anesthesia” rather than general anesthetic, according to manufacturer Aspire Bariatrics.
The device can then be used after every meal, removing up to 30 percent of the calories consumed before they are absorbed into the body.
The FDA reviewed “results from a clinical trial of 111 patients treated with AspireAssist and appropriate lifestyle therapy, and 60 control patients who received only the lifestyle therapy.”
AspireAssist patients lost an average of 12.1 percent of their total body weight over a year period, compared to 3.6 percent for the control patients, the FDA said. Both groups of patients experienced “small improvements” in obesity-related conditions like diabetes, which could be “attributable to lifestyle therapy” such as nutrition.
“The AspireAssist approach helps provide effective control of calorie absorption, which is a key principle of weight management therapy,” said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
However, Maisel also indicated that the device should not be relied on as a catch-all treatment for weight management and that patients should incorporate other measures such as healthier eating.
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“Patients need to be regularly monitored by their health care provider and should follow a lifestyle program to help them develop healthier eating habits and reduce their calorie intake,” he said.
Frequent medical care visits are necessary as there a number of side effects and risks associated with AspireAssist.
Some of the greater risks associated with the surgical placement of the gastric tube are pneumonia, unintended puncture of the stomach or intestinal wall, and even death.
There are also risks related to the abdominal opening for the port valve and the removal of the device.
A number of nutritional experts have blasted the new weight loss alternative, with some calling it “assisted bulimia.”
“I heard about this device about a year or two ago at one of our meetings and I was shocked. It’s like giving someone bulimia, basically, you can just vomit out this tube,” Dr. Sajani Shah, gastric band surgeon at Tufts Medical Center, told CBS News.
Dr. Shelby Sullivan of Washington University in St. Louis, who helped test the medical devices disputed this criticism, telling NBC News: “There is no such thing as medical bulimia or assisted bulimia.”
“People think patients can eat whatever they want and then aspirate it and that’s just not true. It has to be liquid enough and the particles have to be small enough to get through the tube.”
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 38 percent of US adults and 20 percent of teenagers are obese.
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