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New balloon used for weight loss

September 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In medicine, balloons are used to open clogged arteries. Now, doctors say balloons can also help people lose weight. Jennifer Ramsey wanted to lose her baby-body.

"I think, in both of those pregnancies, I put on more weight than I should have," said Ramsey.

At 180 pounds, her diet and exercise plan wasn't working, but she wasn't heavy enough for surgery.

"Why isn't there something available for someone who is starting to get heavy?" asks Ramsey.

Jennifer was the perfect size for a clinical trial designed for people who need to lose 50 to 100 pounds.

"One of the advantages is it's less invasive. There's no surgery involved. Generally, the patient doesn't go to sleep, go on a breathing machine," said Baptist Memorial Hospital bariatric surgeon Dr. George Woodman.

While the patient's sedated, doctors insert a balloon down the throat into the stomach. Then, they inflate it with saline.

"It takes up a portion of the stomach," explains Dr. Woodman. "The stomach only expands to a certain amount, and just by having a balloon taking up space can help patients feel full."

The balloon stays in for six months and then it's removed. The goal is to retrain the stomach and the brain to tell when enough is enough.

"It's really up to them to use lessons learned to realize that they don't need as much food," said Dr. Woodman.

In an Italian study, patients lost 22 pounds more with the balloon compared to diet and exercise and kept the weight off longer. Jennifer's baby-body turned into a bikini body.

After the balloon was removed, she continued exercising and eating smaller portions. She dropped 40 pounds and four dress sizes.

"I want to lose a little bit more," said Ramsey.

The experiment won't do the work for her, but it did jumpstart her weight loss.

The balloon is already widely-used in Europe. Patients are typically nauseous for a few days after the balloon is inserted. They have to stay on a liquid diet for the first week. Results from the FDA trial are expected within the next year.

If the trial is successful, doctors say this could be an option for overweight children, seniors or others who aren't strong enough for weight-loss surgery.

Web Extra Information: Balloon For Weight Loss

BACKGROUND:

Overweight and obese are terms used to describe people who weigh more than what is considered healthy for a given height. Today, more than one-third of the adult population is overweight, and more than 60 million are considered obese. The conditions are determined by body mass index (BMI). Individuals with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered healthy, between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight and 30 or higher are considered obese.

These conditions may lead to serious health issues including premature death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Weight Loss Surgery Info reports that obese individuals develop a higher resistance to insulin, putting them at risk for diabetes.

The excess weight strains the heart and its ability to function, increasing the risk for high blood pressure. High cholesterol, sleeping problems, heartburn and menstrual inabilities are also associated with obesity. An emotional strain attaches to obesity as well. Social isolation, poor self image, feelings of failure and disapproval from society can result from obesity and lead to depression.

TREATMENTS:

The first treatment always recommended for long-term weight loss is a change in lifestyle by modifying one's diet and behavior. Experts recommend eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. They also suggest limiting the intake of soda, candy and greasy fast food. Exercise can be an important part of maintaining a healthy weight. For the morbidly obese population, a fitness plan can seem very intimidating.

A National Institutes of Health survey of 13 studies concludes that physical activity results in modest weight loss in both overweight and obese peoples. Exercise always increases cardiovascular fitness, even if one does not shed extra pounds. The surveys indicate that exercising can help keep the weight off. Some dieters have turned to over-the-counter weight loss drugs to help curb their appetites.

Weight loss surgery is a major decision. According to Weight Loss Surgery Info, surgeries take place due to three factors: the significant health risks of morbid obesity, relatively little-known bariatric surgery risks and complications, and the ineffectiveness of nonsurgical approaches to reach sustained weight loss. Candidates must usually possess a BMI of 40 or greater and weigh more than 100 pounds more than their ideal weight.

THE BIB SYSTEM:

A new, non-surgical method, currently being investigated by the FDA, involves placing a balloon in the stomach to make the body feel fuller, faster. The procedure places a soft balloon through the mouth and fills it with saline once it is placed into the stomach. The balloon stays inside the stomach for up to six months.

Balloons contain a colored dye inside them, so if a balloon bursts prematurely, users will note colored urine. The system is designed to aid in weight loss and must be accompanied by a healthy diet and fitness program.

The goal is to teach patients that they don't need a large amount of food to feel full, and hopefully, once the balloon is removed, they remember that it only takes a small portion of food to satisfy their hunger. Clinical trials are currently taking place. If they are successful, the gastric balloon procedure could be available in the next couple of years. However, it is already available in parts of Europe.

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