Dean Kamen, who tried to elevate humankind above the basic act of walking by inventing the Segway, recently patented technology aimed against yet another rudimentary human function: digesting food. The AspireAssist Aspiration Therapy System is a grotesque weight-loss apparatus that might as well have been lifted straight from the body horror of David Cronenberg’s imagination.
AspireAssist aims to reduce the number of calories absorbed by regular ol’ digestion by having patients drain a third of their stomach contents after every meal, through an endoscopically-implanted tube. Since it takes about 20 minutes before the stomach tells the brain, “Hey, I’m full because you decided to put food inside of me,” removing the contents after that amount of time tricks the brain into thinking that the food is still there.
The calories are then flushed out through a rubber tube that connects the inside of the stomach to a small, round, horrendously named “Skin Port” valve that is located on the outside of the abdomen. Since the aspiration process takes about ten minutes, coupled with the fact most XXXL heavyweights already eat and shit all the time, that’s a lot of lardos hogging the bathroom.
What’s more, removing contents from one’s spare tire goes against how humans have been naturally ingesting food, since we started doing it 4.5 bazillion years ago. Dr. David Lau, a practicing endocrinologist, Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Calgary, and President of Obesity Canada, speculated that when digestive enzymes and hormones are removed this way, we run the risk of malnutrition and malabsorption of vitamins and minerals. Not to mention that anyone who actually ends up draining food through their Skin Port, runs the risk of suffering a significant reduction in energy and nutrients when the stomach contents are aspirated.
There also seems to be “no precise way of controlling how much of the ingested food is being removed,” which increases the risk of “dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.”
Aside from potential damage to the digestive tract, Dr. Lau warned that “infection is always a concern with any devices that connect the skin and internal organs.” Given that fatties who are lazy enough to use this system are probably too lazy to give their Skin Port a good wipe down, the risk of infection through unhygienic use of the apparatus seems higher.
Suckin' fat through a skin port in 2013.
Dr. Lau also mentioned that patients would need to learn how long to wait until they drained their breadbaskets, “Otherwise, undigested food stuff can block the tubing and cause device malfunction.” And, he was absolutely right. The UK’s Independent reported one patient had to avoid eating cauliflower, Chinese food, and steak (among other things) because those yummy delicacies kept getting clogged in the tube.
Psychologically, he worried that AspireAssist may perpetuate disordered eating and mental health issues, including bulimia nervosa.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Seth Davis expressed similar concerns when he questioned thecompany’s claim that “as people learn to eat more healthfully, they can use the AspireAssist less often.” Dr. Davis countered, “Simply having the ability to flush out the stomach contents would not teach a person to eat more healthfully. Indeed, it certainly has the potential to encourage the opposite” and might give patients “carte blanch to eat whatever they want.”
Though behavioural health programs might be more effective for learning healthy eating habits and behaviours, he maintained that bariatric surgeries do have a place. “Past a certain point, there is generally a limit to the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions. Bariatric surgeries do appear to help in extreme cases. Nonetheless, this is a band-aid solution to a much bigger societal problem that needs to be addressed.”
This man is Dean Kamen's worst nightmare.
Dean’s bulimia machine is legal in parts of Europe and is currently undergoing clinical trials in the US. Even if the product is eventually approved by the FDA and shown to give positive results, spending ten minutes draining your gut in the bathroom after every single meal still seems like the saddest thing in the history of everything ever. Oh, and it’s also a waste of time that might be better spent on, um, let’s see… exercising!?
For now, the AspireAssist seems like a profit-driven way of medically accommodating an unhealthy lifestyle. As Dr. Davis remarked, “It does seem rather ironic that a person credited with the invention of a tool to increase sedentary behaviour, is now inventing another tool to deal with the consequences of that same sedentary lifestyle.”
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