When I caught wind that the FDA has approved a new weight loss device aimed at adjusting ones need to overeat, I was both skeptical and interested: how would such a thing work? Is it necessary? Will it be yet another faddish approach to attacking the obesity epidemic?
I mean, let’s be honest, unlike lap band of gastric bypass surgery, this device is aimed at the neural pathways; the theory being that if you can trick your brain into believing it’s had enough, then you won’t keep eating. And while that is a fantastic looking idea on paper, I question any device that resorts to such trickery.
Oh, look at me without manners this morning, for those who have no idea what I am in full rant mode about, take a look:
EnteroMedics Inc.’s Maestro Rechargeable System works by sending 5,000 pulses per second to the vagus nerve, blocking signals between the stomach and the brain. The result is that the stomach feels fuller by taking longer to digest food and the brain doesn’t cause it to expand in anticipation of a meal.
…Implanted surgically in the abdominal area, EnteroMedics’ device looks similar to a cardiac pacemaker, using batteries to generate charges that travel along sophisticated wires called leads into the body. But where pacemaker leads stimulate heart muscles, the Maestro’s target trunks of the primary nerve regulating the digestive system. The rechargeable device is considered a “reversible” weight-loss therapy, because it doesn’t surgically alter the digestive system or create barriers to food absorption.(Joe Carlson, Star Tribune)
Listen, I understand more alternatives are needed, but there doesn’t seem to be enough value in this device for someone to shell out $15,000 to $20,000 to have it implanted.
Willpower is a requirement during the weight loss process, and while the Maestro Implant appears to be targeting those wayward food urges, it may also be offering up a false sense of security; do we really want to send the message that the choice to overeat is out of our hands? I mean, assuming there are no deep-seated emotional or physical issues contributing to ones decision to head for the kitchen, is it a good idea to foster such co-dependence?
Furthermore, what about those who can’t afford the Maestro, will they look at its presence as another sign that their obesity is something they simply cannot control? Does it foster new crutches and more excuses?
Maybe. Maybe not.
In truth, we all make a choice to do what we do, to eat how we eat, and to live how we live. And while many are struggling with obesity for varying reasons—many of which are legitimate—there are just as many who are struggling because they refuse to make better choices for their body on a daily basis.
For that latter population, a device like this one is dangerous at best, especially if a program of healthy eating and exercise doesn’t come along with that $20000 price tag.
However, you don’t have to listen to my opinion, just take a gander at one that is more scientific, and then you tell me if it’s worth the money.
A recent clinical trial found that people with the device lost significant weight — but so did people in a control group of the same study.
A randomized placebo-controlled study sponsored by the company found just more than half of the patients using the device lost at least 20 percent of their excess weight within a year — a result that Binks said was noteworthy, since any weight loss of 5 percent or more is considered significant. But the study’s control group members, who had devices implanted but not switched on, also lost weight. The experimental group lost only 8.5 percent more weight than placebo. (Joe Carlson, Star Tribune)
People who used the device lost as much as those who didn’t. What that tells me is the loss is less about the device than it is about the decision of the individual to not eat. The placebo effect alone said plenty.
Again I say, it’s about willpower and, device or no device, that’s a muscle we can all exercise for free.