This week, the battle against the obesity epidemic jumped up a notch with the U.S. introduction of Obalon — a weight loss “balloon” that expands in your stomach, mimicking the outcome of weight loss surgery.
The new pill is part of an emerging medical trend that seeks to illuminate effective alternatives to procedures like gastric bypass surgery, which can be risky as well as expensive. Another example is the intragastric balloon, which has been shown to cut 20 percent of a patient’s body weight in as little as six months. Similarly, the EndoBarrier works by blocking the absorption process in the small intestine.
"These are straightforward in how they work,” Dr. Aurora Pryor, a chairwoman of the Emerging Technologies Committee at the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, told reporters. "One is simply inserted into your stomach and inflated so there is less room for food.”
Although Obalon is currently only available for experimental use in the U.S., it can be purchased in Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and the Netherlands. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to begin their trial of Obalon and similar products later this year.
As the vast majority of the American population is now either overweight or obese, these technologies could have a tremendous impact on public health. "We are limited because our current bariatric operations are not right for everyone," Pryor told ABC News. "Emerging technology might fill that gap. People who don't want to be cut may be willing to have a device implanted."