It’s the latest weight loss scheme to get Brits chirping: an oral pill that expands into a gastric balloon when ingested, to make patients feel fuller faster.
Launched to much buzz in the UK this week, the Obalon balloon has been garnering headlines for serving as a non-invasive, 15-minute version of traditional gastric balloon treatments which require going under the knife.
Here’s how it works: The vitamin-sized capsule is attached to a slender tube. After swallowing the capsule, gas is used to inflate the balloon through the tube.
Once inflated, the tube is removed, leaving the balloon in the stomach. No sedation or anesthetic is required, and the whole process is said to take about 15 minutes.
Up to three balloons can be used over the 12-week treatment, which are then removed in a short endoscopic procedure.
The overall outcome is to partially fill the stomach and induce a feeling of fullness so that patients consume less.
According to the US company’s own figures, the Obalon balloon helped clinical participants lose an average of eight percent of their total body weight and 49 percent of their excess body weight.
But if you think the gastric balloons will serve as an eat-free card, think again. On the first day, patients are advised to follow a liquid diet, followed by soft foods until the third day. The program also advises a sensible, healthy eating plan.
The capsule is available for those with a body mass index of 27 or higher and sold privately. The cost of a treatment? About £4,000 (US$6,650) for all three balloons.
Side effects can include everything from cramping and abdominal discomfort to nausea and vomiting.
The Obalon is available throughout European countries like Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. The company is also in talks to enter South Korea.
Meanwhile, another extreme weight loss device that recently made headlines was the AspireAssist Aspiration Therapy System, an at-home stomach pump designed to pump out undigested food out through a hole in the patient’s belly, not unlike a vacuum.