This has to be someone blowing hot air.
How can a weight loss pill that revolves around inflating a balloon in your stomach, like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka, really exist?
Well, it does, thanks to California company Obalon. The pill literally has a deflated balloon stuffed inside a small capsule, with a thin catheter attached to the side of the pill. When it’s swallowed, the tube sticks out, the balloon pops out of the capsule as well, where a doctor pumps gas into the tube from there. The tube is removed, leaving the person full of balloon.
The idea is simply a matter of logic and logistics. With the inflated balloon taking up space, the person won’t be able to eat as much, and will feel fuller too. For those that can stomach this kind of thing, multiple balloons can float around in the stomach.
“The balloons work by taking up space in your stomach and making you feel full earlier in the meal,” says study author Dr. Shelby Sullivan, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Patients definitely feel more full and eat less with it.”
The balloon pill is approved in Europe, but hasn’t got the nod from the FDA in the U.S. Similar products have gotten the green light, however; ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon System, received FDA approval in 2015. Their balloons are filled with saline, with the procedure costing $7,000-$9,000.
Potential side effects according to the company are cramping, nausea and vomiting. That’s not surprising, since you’d be carrying around a celebratory party item inside you at all times.
In the research conducted by Sullivan, 387 participants with obesity were given three types of pills split amongst them, ranging from balloon-filled to placebos.
After six months, people who swallowed the balloons lost 6.8% of their total body weight. That was nearly twice as much as the other group, who only lost 3.5%. The balloon-packed patients also enjoyed improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Overall, 64% of the people who consumed Obalon pills lost at least 5% of their body weight, which is significant.
“I think there are really a lot of people who can benefit from this therapy,” Sullivan says. “The reality is we’re treating very, very few patients adequately for obesity.”
What’s important to remember is the balloons won’t stop obesity by itself. Lifestyle changes, like a better diet and more exercise, must complement the hot air pills.
“While the devices can make you feel full earlier with a meal, they’re not going to make you want to eat broccoli or go out and exercise.”