Amy is a Colorado native and nutrition professor. She holds both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in the field of nutrition.
Weight Loss Devices: Friend or Foe?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one-third (36.5%) of US adults are obese. These statistics have continued to trend up in recent years. Obesity has been labeled a chronic disease by the American Medical Society and despite more prevalent nutrition education, community programs, hospital-supervised weight loss programs, and surgical options, the trend won't quit. Researchers and entrepreneurs have been working hard to invent a billion-dollar product that can transform the health epidemic of obesity. Most recently a new device patented as the AspireAssist is the latest to make its way to healthcare consumers.
In June 2016, the FDA approved a new weight loss device. The device is made up of a pump attached to a hose that is surgically implanted into a patient’s stomach. This device functions by draining a portion of the stomach’s food content through the hose approximately 20-30 minutes after a meal. Approximately 30 percent of the calories consumed at the meal are then discarded.
Patients must meet these three criteria to be eligible for the device:
- At least 22 years of age
- Obese with a BMI of 35-55
- Not been able to lose weight through other approaches, excluding surgery
Facts and Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Procedure Like?
Surgeons place the device by inserting a tube into the stomach with an endoscope via an abdominal incision. A port valve is then placed flush with the abdominal skin and connected to the tube. This port valve stays in place permanently for easy access.
Is it Messy?
Once the stomach valve is opened it takes approximately 5-10 minutes to drain the food matter out. Makers of this device recommend emptying the food matter into the toilet. It is important to consider that once food begins to digest in the stomach it is intermingled with stomach acids and may smell a bit like vomit.
Can You Have This Device Removed?
According to the manufacturers of the AspireAssist, patients can have their device removed once they reach their weight loss goals (or if they are unhappy with it for other reasons). It is recommended that patients stop using the device to evacuate food for at least three months to determine if they can maintain their weight loss without it.
What Have The Results Been Like?
The FDA looked at a clinical trial of 111 patients who used this device and compared them to 60 control patients. After one year, the patients using the device lost 12.1% of their total body weight; compared to a 3.6% loss by the control group. The study also correlated the weight loss with small improvements in diseases such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and overall quality of life.
Is it Safe?
Physicians, registered dietitians, and healthcare professionals are listing many red flags regarding this device. Firstly, it is hard to not draw comparisons to bulimia. Bulimia is defined as the cycle of binging and then compensatory behavior such as self-induced vomiting. Secondly, there are concerns that this device could alter a patient's relationships with food psychologically. Alterations such as:
Increased intake at a meal with the knowledge they are evacuating 30% of it later
Decrease the likelihood of selecting healthy foods at mealtime
Frequent evacuations (more than the 3X recommend daily by the manufacturer)
Thirdly, nutritionists are concerned about the nutrition implications of flushing out approximately 30% of the food you eat. Food is not just composed of calories (carbohydrates, protein, fat). What if the contents the patient is flushing out are some of the only sources of key nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) they would consume that day, opening the door to deficiencies?
According to Dr. William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “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.”
What Does This Device Cost?
According to consumers, it averages $8,000-$13,000 dependent on the physician placing it. Additionally, insurance companies do not cover this procedure yet.
How the Procedure Works
While obesity continues to be a growing problem, the physical, psychological, and financial concerns with this device may be enough to keep many consumers away. It has also not been on the market long enough to see many of the long-term results. Still, despite all the concerns with this product, this may be just what some patients are looking for.
Forssell H, Norén E., Endoscopy. 2015 Jan;47(1):68-71. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1378097
Sullivan S, Stein R, Jonnalagadda S, Mullady D, Edmundowicz S., Gastroenterology. 2013 Dec;145(6):1245-52
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2016 Amy
Cabella77 on December 09, 2017:
THat device sounds messed up. Is that what our society is coming to?!?
Amy (author) from Colorado Springs on January 01, 2017:
I would have to agree that it is not as invasive surgically as some of the alternatives out there. I wish you the best!!
Jannea_Journey on January 01, 2017:
I have discussed this option with my doctor. It seems like a last resort but the statistics show that it is successful. Not surgically changing your stomach and intestine makes it a better option than gastric bypass....
Amy (author) from Colorado Springs on November 26, 2016:
I would agree that the concept goes against all logic but people are desperate for a weight loss solution. Thanks for reading!
Davidjenkins21 on November 26, 2016:
I think the idea behind this is kinda sick but if it is actually helping people, what can I say? Good read