New In the News- New & Approved & Controversial

Yet another timely food/nutrition/agriculture news story for you, DIYeters.  This one is quite controversial and, I must warn you, has a bit of a yuck factor. Bariatric (weight loss) surgery has been shown to help very obese people achieve and maintain a healthier weight. Several surgical techniques and devices are approved for weight loss.  Recently, the FDA has approved a gastric pump device which mechanically removes food from the stomach.  As you can imagine the approval of this device has caused quite a stir.

Other common weight loss procedures work by reducing the capacity of the stomach and in some cases inducing a state of malabsorption. Here are some quick references to the most common procedures from MedlinePlus.

Despite the reputation these procedures have, they are not an easy fix for morbid obesity. Just look at the list of possible complications for each procedure. Furthermore, all weight loss surgeries require permanent changes in eating habits. A patient who is not compliant with the post- surgical diet might fail to lose weight.

For people with severe obesity, changes to diet and exercise habits may not be enough to sustain weight loss. Surgical procedures can lead to biochemical shifts that make achieving a healthy weight possible.

For people with severe obesity, changes to diet and exercise habits may not be enough to sustain weight loss. Surgical procedures can lead to biochemical shifts that make achieving a healthy weight possible.

Here is a run-down on the controversial gastric pump called AspireAssist straight from the manufacturer.  There are some positive points about the device. The fact that only light anesthesia is required makes implanting the device both safer (very overweight patients are often high risk for general anesthesia) and more affordable. Also, because there is no major change to the anatomy the implant can be removed without damage to the organs of a non-compliant patient.

The device does have some opponents. Some in the field of medicine cannot comprehend what the FDA what thinking. The device, they contend, does not necessarily force the diet and lifestyle changes that other procedures do. They fear the device was inadequately tested and may lead to adverse consequences in the long term.   Others note that binge-and-purge behavior, even to the point of developing bulimia nervosa, might be encouraged by the device. Here is a 2016 article that expresses just this point. (It’s a raw piece but a nice counterpoint to the device manufacturer’s sales pitch, I think.)

I have to admit, this topic has a major icky-icky-icky factor for me. I wanted to post on this topic a few months ago, but it took me this long to get up the nerve just to read about it.  I tried to watch videos-there are a bunch on line with demonstrations of the AspireAssist- but I just couldn’t. However, as we all know, science has nothing to do with how we feel and everything to do with what the facts are.  Although we do not have long-term data yet, I don’t think this modality should be dismissed. If it is effective and offers more benefit than risk then it should be another available tool for those who need assistance with weight reduction. However, we should not ignore the opponents of this device. They bring up valid concerns. If some weight loss surgery patients develop eating disorders then perhaps pre-surgical screening procedures and post-surgery support need to be modified to identify and help at risk patients. Obesity has real health and social consequences. Everyone should have the opportunity to maximize their health.

What is your opinion on this newly approved device? I know you have an opinion on this. Share in the comments section!

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