An inventor has come up a new device that promises to be the next big weight-loss craze — a personal stomach pump that literally sucks food from the belly. Dean Kamen, working with Aspire Bariatrics, has applied for a patent for the gadget, which he is pitching as an alternative to bariatric surgery.
Joseph J. Colella, M.D., an internationally recognized robotic and bariatric surgeon, tells Newsmax Health that the AspireAssist Aspiration Therapy System — as yet unapproved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — is merely the latest weight-loss gimmick that promises more than it can deliver.
“The new stomach pump may be one of the biggest gimmicks of all time,” says Dr. Colella, director of robotic surgery at Magee Women’s Hospital and St. Margaret’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Dr. Colello notes the device’s inventors claim users “can eat anything that you want and still lose weight,” but “the evidence is clear that eating anything that you want, if those choices are fat and sugar laden, will make you sick as well as cause you to gain weight. That doesn't sound like much of a bonus to me.”
Better alternatives, he says, include eating a healthy diet, getting moderate exercise, and bariatric surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach with an implanted medical device (gastric banding), through removing part of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy) or other techniques (such as gastric bypass).
“With current safety statistics showing that bariatric surgery is comparable to having your gallbladder removed and that the weight and health benefits are durable, this [stomach] tube hardly deserves mention in the same discussion,” in his opinion Dr. Colello says.
Kamen created a media sensation this month when he unveiled plans to develop the gadget as an alternative to bariatric surgery for people who are clinically obese — about one in three Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Aspire Bariatrics’ Website, a small silicone tube is surgically implanted in a patient’s stomach and then connected to a “skin port” on the outside of the abdomen. The port allows the patient to pump partially digested food from the stomach after eating. The 20-minute out-patient procedure is less invasive than gastric bypass, has fewer side effects, and is completely reversible, the pump makers claim. “Aspiration therapy” has been tested on 24 obese patients who lost an average of 44 pounds, they said.
Dr. Colella says he understands why the stomach pump received so much media attention: It purports to offer an easy obesity fix and spares overweight individuals the tough task of improving their diets, exercising more, or having traditional bariatric surgery. But like fad diets and extreme workouts, “Aspiration therapy” isn’t likely to contribute to lasting changes in a person’s weight, he says.
“There always seems to be a new fad or gimmick around the corner … because of the perception that the battle with one's weight is unwinnable,” he says. “No source of dietary information or gimmick has resonated with enough people to make any dent in our nation’s obesity problem.
“There is so much interest in products that can help people lose weight because people are increasingly desperate. They are watching their waistline expand daily and no matter what they try, the expansion continues unabated.”
Dr. Colella recommends against all forms of extreme and “fanatical” workouts and diets, including those depicted on NBC’s popular reality series “The Biggest Loser,” because they are impractical and ineffective for most obese people.
“Programs like ‘The Biggest Loser’ are absolutely sending the wrong message to people with severe obesity,” he argues. “Once your BMI [Body Mass Index] crosses 40 almost no one can lose enough weight to matter and keep it off long enough to make a difference on their health via extreme dieting and fanatical exercise.
“The impression that it gives is misleading and often leads to further frustration and continued loss of hope. While entertaining to some, these kinds of shows don't reflect the practical, day to day challenges that people with an extreme weight problem face.”
Dr. Colella adds that three proven strategies can help obese individuals lose weight better than the latest weight-loss craze:
• Eat more healthy foods — such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. “Without making a fundamental lifestyle change, most importantly regarding the types of food that we eat, no fad diet or gimmick, not even surgery, will lead to sustainable weight loss,” he says. “More important than eating less is to make better food choices.”
• Limit sweets, particularly sweetened beverages. “The single best thing you can do to start losing weight today is to stop drinking your calories unless you are drinking a low-sugar protein beverage,” he notes.
• Get moving, but recognize exercise is only half the battle. “Exercise is a great adjunct to appropriate eating, and is crucial to maintain a healthy life, but to rely on exercise as the primary tool to achieve weight loss is a strategy that will fail,” he says. “You simply can't fix mistakes made with your fork with exercise.”