ST. LOUIS, Mo. - More than one-third of Americans are obese, putting themselves at risk for heart disease, stroke, type-two diabetes, and certain cancers. When diet and exercise don't work, many turn to surgery. But now there's a new therapy that may work just as well for some.
Kari Adams has been overweight most of her life. At her highest she weighed 220 pounds.
"I have tried Weight Watchers. I have tried South Beach. I have tried Atkins," Adams said.
But nothing worked. So, Adams enrolled in a clinical trial to test a new and very radical weight loss method. It's called aspiration therapy.
"If we can put food into the stomach, can we also take food out of the stomach?" explained Shelby Sullivan, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis.
Patients first have a skin port placed in their abdomen. After a meal, they connect a tube to the port – and into the stomach. When they turn on the valve, water is infused, and food travels from the stomach to the outside of the body.
"The food just, is emptied out into the toilet," Sullivan said.
The device allows users to remove 30 percent of the food from the stomach before its absorbed. In a clinical trial, patients lost an average of 46 pounds during the first year using the therapy.
Adams went from 220 pounds to 145 pounds, after five years of aspiration therapy. And, she's more active than ever!
"The main thing is, I've started running, and I did two half marathons so far," Adams explained
Now, nothing holds her back.
Patients have to aspirate about 20 minutes after a meal, and the process takes about 20 minutes – so they do have to plan ahead. Doctors also monitor patient's nutrient intake and can provide them with special supplements if needed.
About 35 percent of adults in the United States are considered obese, according to the CDC. Obesity can cause heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity costs the U.S. $147 billion a year. In fact, the medical costs for obese people are $1,500 higher than those who are not obese. African Americans have the highest rates of obesity, at about 49 percent, and Hispanics have the next highest rate at about 40 percent. A person is considered obese if their weight is 20 percent or more above normal weight, or if their body mass index (BMI) is above 30. BMI is calculated based on your weight and height. (www.cdc.gov)
CAUSES: Gender and genetics can lead to obesity, and so can environmental factors, physical activity, illness or medication. Lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes surgery are options for treating obesity. Doctors are divided about calling obesity a disease or not, despite it being perhaps the greatest public health issue facing Americans. Labelling it as a disease is seen by some as a way of absolving personal responsibility from the condition. While others think labelling it a disease could lead to a different, more holistic, and more serious way of thinking about obesity. (Source: www.webmd.com)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Aspiration therapy is now being tested to treat obesity. It's one of the more radical approaches. It reduces calories stored in the body. To make this happen, a tube is placed in the stomach. The tube is connected to a poker size chip skin port outside of the abdomen; 20 minutes after a meal the patient empties a portion of the stomach contents into a toilet by connecting the handheld device to the skin port. The process takes 5 to 10 minutes. The "emptying" or aspiration process removes a third of the food so the body still receives calories it needs to function. In a U.S. clinical trial patients lost about 46 pounds in the first year. Critics say the pump can get clogged because it can't break up foods like cauliflower, steak, pretzels, and Chinese food. Dehydration, stomach irritation, and electrolyte deprivation are also a concern. (Source: Washington University in St. Louis)
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