weight-loss pillRecently launched in the UK and already used throughout Europe, new weight loss pills that inflate into stomach balloons are now in the investigational stage in the US.

Here’s how they work. A patient swallows a large pill attached to a long catheter. Inside the pill is a balloon that’s inflated once the pill arrives in the stomach. Taking up space about the size of an apple, the balloon causes the patient to feel fuller when eating. In theory the patient will then eat less. Up to three balloons can bob around in a stomach at one time. After three months of hopefully consuming less food and losing weight, the patient has the balloons removed in what is called an “endoscopy procedure.” A thin tube is threaded down the anesthetized patient’s throat to the stomach. This time around the balloons are deflated and pulled back up and out.

The procedure pioneered by Obalon costs about $3,300.

Reservations come from fitness expert Tim Bean and JAMES HAMBLIN, the writer who wrote the Atlantic piece. They share the opinion the balloons could in  fact actually enlarge stomachs.

My own reservations start with an aversion to swallowing hefty-size pills and judging from the company’s own illustrations, pictured here, this is a REALLY hefty-size pill. NEXT, imagine the sensation of that attached plastic catheter slithering down your throat into your esophagus, then into your stomach. Whew!

Now, onto the pills and balloon themselves. Where are they made? How are they made? Assuming all is ship shape, the journey between their manufacture, travel and placement seems like a long, complex one so it would be hard not to consider the possibility of   errant bacteria somewhere along the way.

And how about the body’s own rejection system? Bodies don’t like foreign objects setting up housekeeping inside their exclusive domain. I would guess that’s why the balloons are only allowed a three month’s stomach residency.

In theory the balloons freely float above stomach contents and cause no difficulties. So far there’s nothing to disprove this. But the procedure is still quite new.  Nevertheless, in a country where treating obesity means big bucks for doctors in that specialty and the obese themselves are hungry for any fix that PHYSICALLY prevents them from eating all they want, it’s probably only a matter of time before balloons are bobbing about in America’s rotund stomachs.

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