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Swallowing This Balloon Can Make You Lose Weight, Scientists Say

May 30, 2016 06:53 AM EDT
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Some people think that losing weight through diet and exercise is too difficult and time-consuming. So researchers are finding ways to make weight loss a little less laborious.  

A California-based company has created the Obalon, which is a capsule containing a deflated balloon. During their presentation at the Digestive Disease Week conference, the researchers said that people will swallow the capsule, which the doctor then inflates with nitrogen-based gas through a catheter attached to the capsule.

As the balloon inflates, it takes up space inside the stomach and make the people feel full earlier in the meal. As a result, people will eat less.

Researchers conducted a study with 185 obese people, with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 to 40. The subjects were given the balloon treatment, which was called Obalon 6-Month Balloon System.

In the study, participants swallowed three balloons (one every three weeks), and then the balloons were taken out after three months.

A separate group of 181 people was given the "sham" procedure, where they swallowed a pill that doctors pretended to fill with gas.

After six months, participants who used the balloon system lost an average of 6.8 percent of their weight, while the sham group lost an average of only 3.5 percent.

"Our research shows that the studied balloon system can help patients lose almost twice as much weight compared with lifestyle changes alone," said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, co-author of the study and director of bariatric endoscopy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, in an article published in LiveScience.

"This is important because weight loss is very difficult, and a significant number of people are not successful in achieving their weight loss goals with diet and exercise," Sullivan added.

Currently, the drug is waiting for the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But Obalon has already been approved in several European countries and in Mexico.

The slimming effect, however, had some side effects: 90 percent of the study participants experienced mild abdominal cramps and nausea.

Another balloon system for weight loss called ReShape Dual Balloon System had been approved by the FDA in 2015, while another balloon system called Ellipse, which is much like Obalon, is also in the process of securing approval from the FDA.

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