Company Files Patent for Food-Sucking Obesity Solution

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Do you feel like you have tried everything to lose weight? Philadelphia-based company Aspire Bariatrics is willing to bet that you have and are desperate for something new. The company has filed for a patent to provide “Aspiration Therapy” via surgery with the placement of the A-Tube that will suck food out of your stomach so that it cannot be digested and turned into body fat.

Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the treatment of obesity. While the field does provide non-surgical methods for weight loss (ie: counseling for diet and exercise), the term is most often used for surgeries such as the gastric bypass or the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band. Weight loss surgery (WLS) usually provides a more rapid weight loss and results are greater than conventional treatment. For some, it is a life-saving procedure.

Most bariatric surgeries work primarily by restricting the food that enters the body. The Lap-Band®, for example, is a plastic band with an inner balloon that is wrapped around the top portion of the stomach to create a small gastric pouch. Because a patient eats less, they lose weight – excess weight loss averages about 55%. The Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass is a more extensive process, combining restriction (through the surgical creation of a gastric pouch) and reduced absorption of nutrients (because the food digested is then re-routed lower into the intestine so less calories are taken up by the body.)

The A-Tube approach is like no other. According to the company’s website, a tube is surgically placed from the patient’s stomach to the surface of the skin in a quick (20-minute) outpatient endoscopic procedure. Only a very small (1-centimeter) incision is made. The tube connects to a Skin-Port about the size of a poker chip (actually attached 10 to 14 days later after the surgical site has healed) that sits on the abdominal skin. The patient eats what they want and then 20 minutes later, they pump contents out of the stomach using a device known as the CompanionTM (which comes with a carry case so the pump can be activated anytime and anywhere.)

Clinical trials have been completed on only 24 obese patients in the US and internationally. All patients began the study with a BMI between 35 and 49 kg/m2 – clinically obese. The company states that patients lost, on average, over 45 pounds in the first year or 49% of their excess weight. “Compared to other approaches, the AspireAssist has similar results without requiring invasive alterations to the anatomy or digestive process,” boasts Aspire Bariatrics.

Obviously, weight loss occurs because the patient is not allowed to fully digest all the food he or she has eaten, thus resulting in fewer calories. Although the company provides a “Lifestyle Modification Program” for “gradual changes to diet and exercise habits,” the patient is not really required to change their eating habits in a way that would make their diet more healthful and create a pattern of eating that would ensure ultimate long-term success.

The company counters that in their clinical trials, patients did not actually eat more just because they could. They indicate that their patients exhibited better self-restraint and no tendency to binge-eat. However, at least one patient is described as radically changing her diet because the food she ate tended to clog her tube (rather than changing her diet to improve her health.)

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Sucking food out of the stomach before it has time to digest also rings familiar with the eating disorder bulimia, where a patient will consume large amounts of food and then vomit to avoid absorbing calories. The company says that Aspiration Therapy is not consistent with this psychological disorder and that patients are screened for eating disorders prior to being prescribed the therapy. “Bulimia is medically unsupervised,” says the website’s answer to a FAQ. “Aspiration Therapy is under the control of a physician and electrolytes and metabolites are carefully monitored.”

In clinical studies, the most common complications were abdominal discomfort and constipation/diarrhea. Other less likely risks include infection, anemia, and buried bumper syndrome, which can generally be resolved with conservative medical care or tube replacement.

The company does not reveal any information about long-term nutritional status of patients using Aspiration Therapy. However, understanding the basics of the digestive system, it seems fairly obvious that patients could potentially become malnourished by using AspireAssist.

In general, food clears the stomach after about four to six hours, with different nutrients taking different amounts of time to digest. Carbohydrates, for example, take three to four hours (depending on factors such as fiber content) and proteins and fats stay in the stomach for five to seven hours. Pumping food out of the stomach after only 20 minutes suggests that many needed essential nutrients will not reach body tissues for optimal health.

Pumping the stomach could also disturb natural digestive regulators found within the mucosa of the stomach (the lining) and within the stomach acids. Interruption of this process could potentially harm the environment of the stomach, affecting the digestion of foods or the function of the stomach itself.

The AspireAssist became approved for sale in Europe in December 2011. In the US, it is an investigational device and not available for commercial sale. By filing the patent and completing more clinical trials, the company does hope that the FDA will approve the device in the future.

Reference: Aspire Bariatrics, Inc.

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