Is the Balloon Pill a Weight Loss Miracle?

Before the slightly overweight start making inquiries about how they can purchase the balloon pill……………. HOLD ON! It’s not what you’re thinking. Ok, so every media outlet is blowing (pun intended) their trumpet about the latest weight loss sensation called the “balloon pill.” According to reports, it’s a pill containing the gastric balloon providing excessive weight loss without the need for surgery.

Also referred to as the “Obalon Pill” when swallowed it expands in the stomach reducing its volume which means the overweight can’t eat very much before feeling full. This is not a new phenomenon they have been around for many years but through surgical implantion.

How Does it Work?

The device is made by a company called Obalon. It is constructed of three balloons which are set inside the stomach over a period of 12 weeks. The number of balloons required is tailored according to the weight loss progress of the patient. The balloons are housed in a pill or capsule about the size of a large vitamin pill and attached to a small tube which inflates the balloon when in the stomach. Once the balloons are inflated, the tube is removed.

The procedure takes approximately 15 minutes and no anaesthetic or sedation is required. For three days after the balloon has been inserted, patients are required to consume a special diet. Clear liquids on day one, soft foods on day two and back to solids on day three.

After twelve weeks, the patient is lightly sedated and the balloon is removed with an endoscope, this procedure takes between 15 and 30 minutes.

During the twelve weeks, the patient must commit to a healthy diet because permanent weight loss is only achieved through healthy eating and exercise.

Who is the Balloon Pill Suitable For?

The balloon pill isn’t available for everyone; if you are 20 lbs overweight you won’t be approved. However, if you have been unsuccessful in losing weight through diet and exercise and you have a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or above. A BMI of 25 or above is overweight and 30 or above is obese.

Does it Work?

A study of 119 obese patients found that the 110 who completed the treatment lost an average of 8kg which represents half of their body weight. These results are similar to those achieved by the actual gastric bypass surgery, which typically results in weight loss of between 50 and 70 percent. Due to the length of time the balloon pill has been available there is no evidence to suggest its long term effects.

What are the risks and side effects?

The same study found that one in 10 patients experienced nausea, 6.7% experienced vomiting and 7.6% were so uncomfortable they requested to have the balloon removed. None of the participants reported any serious complications.

As with all procedures, regardless of whether they are surgical in nature or not doctors are advised to monitor their patients closely during the entire 12 week procedure just in case there are any adverse reactions. These could include:

  • Balloon deflation leading to bowel obstruction which can be fatal
  • Injury to the oesophagus or stomach
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Cramps and stomach pain
  • Indigestion
  • Reflux

The medical field are unable to assess the dangers of the balloon pill in comparison to other procedures because it is so new. However complications with the endoscopy used during the balloon removal process include:

  • Bronchial aspiration (fluid or liquid from the stomach lodging in the lungs airways)
  • Digestive tract injury
  • Sore throat
  • Abdominal discomfort

The balloon pill is unsuitable for people who suffer from type 1 diabetes, gastro-oesophageal tract, pregnant women, women planning to get pregnant, or women who are breastfeeding.

Will it Work for Me?

There has been very little research about the effectiveness of the product because it has just been introduced to the market. Studies have found that it does assist in weight loss but it is unlikely to be the magic pill for an obesity cure. As the company have advised, people who take the pill must commit to a healthy lifestyle during and after the procedure.

Final Thought

Before you empty your bank account on a “magic pill” I recommend that you try and lose weight through the following simple steps:

  • Cut out processed foods
  • Cut out fried foods
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake
  • Drink more water
  • Consume more fiber
  • Consume more protein
  • Reduce your calorie intake
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Cut out white rice
  • Cut out white pasta
  • Cut out white bread
  • Exercise daily

If you are serious about your weight loss goals extreme will power and discipline will help you to achieve them.