The US Food and Drug Administration has approved an unorthodox method for losing weight: an external stomach pump called the AspireAssist that flushes part of stomach contents straight to the toilet.
While the device has been called “assisted bulimia” by critics, it has been proven effective in obese patients, helping them lose an average of over 12% body weight, which is far more than pills or diets have ever done, reports NBC News.
The pump is minimally invasive, and consists of a tube that goes from the inside of the stomach to a port on the outside, resting on the person’s skin. The pump can be attached to this port any time to dump out around one-third of a stomach’s contents at a time. The device is made by Aspire Bariatrics of King of Prussia in Pennsylvania.
Experimental trials using the device have shown that patients lost an average of 46 pounds during the first year and more pounds leading to a total of 50 pounds lost by the second year.
The FDA cautioned that,
The AspireAssist device should not be used on patients with eating disorders, and it is not intended to be used for short durations in those who are moderately overweight.
A statement further clarifies, “It is intended to assist in weight loss in patients aged 22 and older who are obese, with a body mass index of 35 to 55, and who have failed to achieve and maintain weight loss through non-surgical weight-loss therapy.”
Dr. Shelby Sullivan of Washington University in St. Louis helped test the AspireAssist and other similar devices. She says it’s a good thing for the morbidly obese, and that there is no such thing as “assisted bulimia” or “medical bulimia.” Bulimia is an eating disorder wherein those afflicted purge the contents of their stomach, often through vomiting.
“Patients eat less with this therapy then they did before,” Sullivan says. “People think patients can eat whatever they want and then aspirate it and that’s just not true. It has to be liquid enough and the particles have to be small enough to get through the tube.”
The AspireAssist joins the list of devices intended to help Americans lose weight. Diet drugs are not effective, and doctors are generally wary of prescribing them, leading to an increase in surgical procedures and machines that promote weight loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows data that 38% of American adults and 17% of teenagers are obese. “The AspireAssist approach helps provide effective control of calorie absorption, which is a key principle of weight management therapy,” Dr. William Maisel from the FDA states. “Patients need to be regularly monitored by their health care provider and should follow a lifestyle program to help them develop healthier eating habits and reduce their calorie intake.”
The company making the AspireAssist has not revealed how much the pump costs, which is available in Europe. It has to be implanted in a short endoscopic procedure, costs of which may vary. “Patients require frequent monitoring by a health care provider to shorten the tube as they lose weight and abdominal girth, so that the disk remains flush against their skin. Frequent medical visits are also necessary to monitor device use and weight loss and to provide counseling on lifestyle therapies,” the FDA says.
Side effects of the AspireAssist include nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation and diarrhea.