The U.S. has an obesity rate that keeps right on growing so it's no surprise some overweight Americans are giving a new weight loss method a try. For them, one difference between it and other weight loss methods is that they have to go Canada to get it.
That's because the procedure, 'intragastric balloon procedure', is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States. It has been okay'ed for use in Canada since 2006 and it seems to be helping many overweight persons to get smaller, Americans among them.
Intragastric balloon procedure and weight loss
During the one hour procedure a surgeon places a deflated balloon into the stomach through the esophagus and then fills it with salt water dyed blue. The balloon acts upon the receptors in the stomach's lining and they lie to the brain about how much food has been consumed. The balloon fills about half the stomach so the person reduces food intake by a corresponding 50 percent.
Balloons can burst and act as a plug, causing a dangerous condition called perforation. However, in a story in the Toronto Star Dr. Sanjeev Kaila, a Canadian plastic surgeon who performs the surgery, says problems occur in under 1 percent and rarely result in serious harm. Dying the salt water blue is so that should the balloon burst, urine changes color and the patient is alerted they need to get it removed.
Nutritional Changes and Exercise Regimes
Dr. Kaila told the Star he performs the surgery about 10 times each week and about 1 in 3 of his patients come up from America. He says the balloon works on the receptors about 5 months and is then taken out. During the time a patient has the balloon the goal is not to simply lose weight, easily enough achieved given the patient does not feel as hungry, but also to change eating habits and add exercise.
“Putting a balloon in without nutritional support is a bad idea because the patient is not changing or learning anything,” Dr. Kaila told the Star. “You want to change the lifestyle habits.” The average weight loss, studies have shown, is between 13 and 34 pounds, with some losing 50 or more pounds; there's no data as yet on how patients do after the balloon is removed.
The American Medical Association (AMA) says nearly a third of the U.S. adult population is obese and each year obesity "kills more Americans...than AIDS, all cancers, and all accidents combined." Given the tragic consequences of obesity and the benefits of weight loss, intragastric balloon procedure has become an option for many.
The U.S. FDA is looking at legalizing the procedure but there are reports that question its effectiveness and it is not a given that approval will come.