Going to the washroom to willingly purge oneself of what one just ate is a behavior typically associated with bulimia; but it might be the next frontier in America's fight against obesity.
The FDA has just approved an obesity treatment called AspireAssist, which is basically a surgically attached drain that allows obese people, through a process called "aspiration," to evacuate some of the food in their stomachs into a toilet through a tube before it can be absorbed by the body.
According to a video explaining how AspireAssist works, users simply have to turn a lever placed on their abdomen and voilà, their stomach contents "begin to empty into the toilet." This draining process can be repeated until a third of the food is removed from the stomach, allowing for a "gradual, healthy weight loss."
Developed by Pennsylvania-based company Aspire Bariatrics, the device was designed to help patients with a BMI of 35 to 55 and "who have failed to achieve and maintain weight loss through non-surgical weight-loss therapy." In other words, it's not a quick fix for those who, on a whim, have decided that they want to shed a few pounds.
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In order to approve the obesity-fighting tube system, the FDA looked at a clinical trial of 111 patients who used AspireAssist along with "appropriate lifestyle therapy." Those users were compared to 60 patients in a control group that used only lifestyle therapy. One year later, the stomach pump group lost an average of 12.1 percent of their body weight, significantly more than the 3.6 percent average weight loss for control patients.
While certain critics have called this method "assisted bulimia," the FDA insists that it is a medically sound, reversible, and minimally invasive procedure.
"The AspireAssist approach helps provide effective control of calorie absorption, which is a key principle of weight management therapy," William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a press release. "Patients need to be regularly monitored by their healthcare provider and should follow a lifestyle program to help them develop healthier eating habits and reduce their calorie intake."
Despite brushing off any similarities to bulimia, the FDA also took the precautionary step of prohibiting those who have been diagnosed with bulimia, binge eating disorder, and night eating syndrome to use it. "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."
While the underlying mechanism may be the same as bulimia—albeit through a different conduit—AspireAssist will essentially allow obese people to have their cake, eat it, and evacuate it.