'Balloon-in-a-pill' spurs weight loss, health benefits: study

May 8, 2017 by Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—A new type of "balloon-in-a-pill" may offer a nonsurgical way for obese people to shed pounds—and get healthier, too, a small study hints.

The study, of just 10 patients, tested the latest rendition of the so-called gastric balloon.

Some weight-loss experts consider gastric balloons an alternative to invasive obesity surgery. The approach is straightforward: One or more balloons are placed in the stomach, then inflated—allowing them to take up space and curb the patient's appetite.

There are already a few weight-loss balloons on the market in the United States. Two, called ReShape and Orbera, are ingested with the help of an endoscope placed in the mouth and threaded down into the stomach.

Another, called Obalon, is swallowed via a capsule. The capsule, which is tethered to a thin catheter, dissolves once it reaches the stomach, revealing the balloon. The balloon is then inflated with air through the catheter.

All three balloon devices must be removed through an endoscope after six months.

The device tested in the new study is different in a few ways, said researcher Dr. Hidetoshi Ohta, of Otaru Ekisaikai Hospital in Japan.

Like Obalon, it is taken by pill. But, Ohta explained, there is no need for an endoscope. The balloon is deflated, then excreted the natural way six months after it's swallowed.

The new device also has a "magnetic valve," Ohta said. The valve can be opened at any time to deflate the balloon—in an emergency, for instance.

The study—which had no industry funding, Ohta said—involved 10 adults who were overweight or obese.

All were treated with the gastric balloon, along with diet and exercise changes—key components of all the approved balloon systems.

After six months, the patients had lost almost 13 percent of their body weight, on average. Beyond that, Ohta said, their insulin levels dipped by 20 percent, and their levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol dropped by an average of 20 mg/dL of blood.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Obese people commonly become resistant to insulin's effects, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Ohta said the findings suggest the balloon therapy can not only spur weight loss, but might also help control type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

But a weight-loss surgeon who was not involved in the study was skeptical.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin is chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

It's no surprise that patients in this study saw improvements in insulin and LDL levels, Roslin said. "Any modality" that triggers will have those benefits, he said.

Roslin is unconvinced that gastric balloons offer a long-term solution to obesity.

"The issue with balloons is that the devices need to be removed," he said. "And it's unlikely there will be a lasting impact when the device is extracted or, in this case, deflated."

He cited "liquid diets" as an analogy. They work, but only for a while. And people often gain back all of the weight they lost, and then some, Roslin said.

"I challenge anyone to explain to me why a will be different," he added.

And leaving the device in place might raise the risk of complications, Roslin said.

As for safety questions, the balloons already on the market have some potential side effects. They include nausea, vomiting and stomach ulcers, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Also, earlier this year, the FDA warned doctors of two potential problems with the ReShape and Orbera balloons—which are filled with fluid, rather than air.

The devices, the agency said, can spontaneously overinflate, sometimes causing abdominal pain, breathing problems and vomiting. Some patients have also developed pancreatitis—inflammation of the pancreas—because of compression from the balloons.

If either problem arises, patients may need the device removed, the FDA said.

Ohta acknowledged that his study was very small and short-term. He said larger, longer-term trials are planned.

Ohta presented his initial findings with the device on Monday at the annual Digestive Disease Week meeting of gastroenterologists, in Chicago. The results should be considered preliminary until they're published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Explore further: FDA issues warning about balloon obesity treatments

More information: Hidetoshi Ohta, M.D., Otaru Ekisaikai Hospital, Otaru, Japan; Mitchell Roslin, M.D., chief, obesity surgery, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; May 8, 2017, presentation, American Society for Gastrointestial Endoscopy meeting, Chicago

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on managing obesity.

Related Stories

FDA issues warning about balloon obesity treatments

February 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Fluid-filled balloons placed in the stomach to treat obesity have been linked to serious complications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports.

Study of procedure-free gastric balloon shows they are safe, lead to similar weight loss as other balloon procedures

June 3, 2016
New research on the first procedure-free gastric balloon, presented at this year's European Obesity Summit (EOS) in Gothenburg, Sweden (June 1-4) shows it is safe and results in similar weight loss to other balloon procedures ...

FDA approves stomach-filling balloon for weight loss

July 28, 2015
Federal health regulators on Tuesday approved an inflatable medical balloon that aids weight loss by filling up space in the stomach.

Iliac artery balloon catheter little benefit in placenta accreta

April 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Prophylactic placement of internal iliac artery balloon catheters does not impact outcomes for women with placenta accreta, according to a study published online April 12 in Anaesthesia.

A balloon in a pill leads to weight loss

August 8, 2016
After trying countless exercise and weight-loss programs, Sherry Vukman tried a new strategy to shed some pounds - swallowing a balloon.

Swallowable, gas-filled balloons aid fight against obesity

May 24, 2016
People with obesity who are struggling to control their weight might soon have a new treatment option—swallowing gas-filled balloons that help them eat less, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) ...

Recommended for you

'Life support' for transplant livers better than freezing: study

April 18, 2018
Keeping transplant livers on "life support" at body temperature preserves them better than the prevailing method of near-freezing, and could reduce the number of donor organs thrown away, a study said Wednesday.

Study finds no evidence that anesthesia in young children lowers intelligence

April 18, 2018
A Mayo Clinic study finds no evidence that children given anesthesia before their third birthdays have lower IQs than those who did not have it. A more complex picture emerges among people who had anesthesia several times ...

Post-surgical opioids can, paradoxically, lead to chronic pain

April 16, 2018
Giving opioids to animals to quell pain after surgery prolongs pain for more than three weeks and primes specialized immune cells in the spinal cord to be more reactive to pain, according to a new study by the University ...

Evidence mounts that daily opioid users may fare worse after spine surgery, study finds

April 16, 2018
In a multicenter database study of adults who had undergone surgery for spinal deformities, researchers say that those who had used narcotics daily on average had worse outcomes, such as longer intensive care unit stays and ...

Whether the donor and recipient are male or female influences transplant rejection rates—investigators explore why

March 22, 2018
Biological sex differences can have far-reaching, clinical consequences, as illustrated by organ transplant outcomes. Men and women who receive donated organs can have different rates of transplant rejection, in some cases ...

Surgeon performance benefits from 'warm-up'

March 20, 2018
Surgeons progressively 'warm-up' as they repeat a procedure on their operating list, akin to the way athletes' performance improves across a competition—according to new research.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.