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'Weight loss belt' may help stop hunger

May 8, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Researchers call it a "weight loss belt." It's a device you actually wear to stop hunger, and it could be an alternative to weight loss surgery.Twenty-nine-year-old Heather Groff has struggled with weight all her life.

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"I've actually been overweight all my life. As a child, I was always the bigger child in the class, and as I got older it progressed," said Heather.

The mother of four says she's tried everything -- except gastric bypass surgery, because her mother had a lot of problems with it. At nearly 300 pounds, Heather feared she was out of options until she learned of a new procedure called VBloc therapy.

Surgeons use a laparascope to insert a device just beneath the skin of the abdomen. Electrical signals block the vagus nerve, which is the nerve that controls hunger. It essentially helps patients feel full.

"It's like putting on your belt every morning and having to cinch it up. Clearly one place it's going to work on is when patients feel hungry," said Dr. John Morton from Stanford University. "So patients will feel less hungry when they have the device on."

While it's yet to receive FDA approval, the therapy has yielded impressive results in other countries. But critics say it has limitations. Centinela Freeman's Dr. Jeremy Korman says obesity procedures can't work if patients are still dealing with the emotional issues of eating.

"We have to combine behavioral modification - along with surgery - to have that success we're looking for," said Dr. Korman.

Gastric bypass surgery allows patients to lose up to 50 percent of their excess weight in the first six months. Initial studies indicate VBloc therapy enables patients to lose about 20 percent.

But unlike gastric bypass surgery, which literally shrinks the size of the stomach, VBloc requires no major incision, which means minimal side effects and a speedier recovery.

A month after her procedure, Heather was back to her normal activities and she lost 10 pounds.

"The appetite has completely cut itself in half," said Heather.

While the weight loss with the VBloc is not dramatic at first, experts say even a modest amount of weight loss is going to give patients a lot of health benefits.

For those interested in joining a VBloc trial, click here for more information or call the Center's toll free number: (866) 97-VBloc or (866) 978-2562. To qualify, you must be 18 to 65 years old, with a BMI of 35 to 45.

 

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