Balloon in a pill could treat obesity

A revolutionary new gastric balloon could be available in Britain within the next year after US trials proved a success. The advantage of the balloon, which is being developed by San Diego firm Obalon Therapeutics, is that it can be swallowed and then inflated without the need for anaesthetic or sedation.

gastric balloon in a capsule could treat obesity
gastric balloon in a capsule could treat obesity

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It is packed inside a gelatine capsule that dissolves in the stomach and is inflated by way of a long, thin tube. Once pumped up to the size of a hamburger, the tube is simply pulled to release it and the balloon's self-sealing valve ensures the air is trapped inside. The balloon can also be removed in a similarly simple ten-minute procedure.

Researchers say it is also possible to insert more than one if the first treatment fails to work.

Just as the traditional method works by making the patient feel fuller, quicker, so too does the capsule balloon. However, the gastric balloon currently available is inserted by way of an endoscope, which can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhoea and abdominal pain in the days after the procedure.

In four small trials, those patients fitted with the capsule balloon for 12 weeks lost more excess weight than those fitted with the conventional balloons, averaging a 35.5 per cent loss compared to 20 per cent. And in two studies carried out in Belgium and France, the average was an impressive 50 per cent.

Though the balloon has so far only been in used for a maximum of 12 weeks, scientists believe it could remain in place for longer, giving hope to obese patients struggling to lose weight.

Paul Trayhurn, professor of nutritional biology at Liverpool University, told the Daily Mail: "It sounds promising. Gastric balloons and gastric bypass operations are being used to reduce the effective size of the stomach so that you feel full more quickly, with the result that you eat less."

He added: "But this particular device seems a neat approach, given that no intervention is required by a clinician to get it in place - only inflation of the balloon once the capsule has dissolved."

Are you struggling with a serious weight problem? Would you be prepared to try the new capsule gastric balloon? Leave your comments below...