Controversial weight loss device lets you eat like a pig then pumps your stomach

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Cashing in on people’s desperation to lose weight is a new device that’s pretty much the medical equivalent of bulimia. Its main function is to pump out the contents of a user’s stomach, right after a heavy meal.

Controversial weight loss device lets you eat like a pig then pumps your stomach

The makers of ‘AspireAssist’ claim to have already helped hundreds of patients in the US shed copious amounts of fat, some dropping as much as a 100 pounds. The controversial product will also be available in the UK within a few months, but hundreds of critics are speaking up against the outrageous device, warning that it is a stop-gap measure that fails to address the real cause of obesity.

AspireAssist is the brainchild of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway personal transporter, in collaboration with a group of bariatric surgeons. It is installed during a 15-minute surgery – a tube is inserted into the patient’s stomach, and threaded out through an incision the abdomen. Twenty minutes after a heavy meal, the user can attach a small pump to the outer end of the tube. The pump flushes the stomach with water, sucking all undigested food back into a bag. When the process is complete, the pump can be detached and the outer end of the tube sealed with a stopper. Twenty minutes is believed to be enough time for your brain to think you’re full, but not enough time for your stomach to digest all the food.

The manufacturers claim that the device can help avoid digesting as much as a third of the consumed food, by pumping it out and flushing it down a toilet. That means that 30 percent of all calories consumed magically vanish. “No one needs to ever know,” their marketing material states.

British gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Shonde thinks that the device is ‘an excellent alternative to obesity surgery’, and plans to offer it to patients at his London clinic starting September. “Fitting and use is not dangerous and the weight loss results are nearly as good as surgery – but without the risks,” he said. He explained that the principle behind AspireAssist is the reverse of PEG feeding, “which we have used for more than 20 years to feed those too sick to take food by mouth.”

Not everyone shares Dr. Shonde’s enthusiasm for the device, though. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said that it was nothing short of ‘vomit on demand’. “I cannot believe how we invented a gadget that allows people to make gluttons of themselves and eat like pigs and not suffer the consequences,” he said. “It appals me to think that people will be able to press a button to empty the contents of their stomachs.”

“It is quite literally stomach churning,” he added. “It sends out every wrong signal in the book about healthy eating.”

But people who have used the device claim that it has changed their lives. In the US, a yearlong trial showed that 24 obese patients were able to lose half of their excess weight just by using AspireAssist.

Sruli Saurymper, an IT consultant from North London, flew all the way to Czech Republic to have AspireAssist installed in his belly. The operation and follow-up program set him back by about $3,000, but helped him lose about 50 pounds off his bulky frame. “It made losing the weight effortless,” he said. “It’s done what no diet has done. It’s got my weight down and kept it down.”

“This is for me,” 55-year-old Swedish man Mikael Cederhag told ABC News. Within a year, Mikael was able to end his 30-year struggle with weight loss, dropping 64 pounds just by using the pump. “Finally, this is a solution that allows me to get my weight down and stay that way,” he said.

But AspireAssist has its own shortcomings – the pump struggles to break up large foods like cauliflower, pretzels, and steak, so the tube might sometimes get clogged. There are also concerns of safety, such as the risk of dehydration, irritation of the stomach lining, and depriving your organs of vital electrolytes. Experts say it won’t be long before infections, leakage, poor nutrient absorption, depression, and even suicide become the side-effects of such a device.

The only healthy way to lose weight, nutrition experts argue, is by changing your lifestyle and eating habits. But the problem with AspireAssist is that once you put it in, no one is likely to ever want it taken out. But Mikael hopes that gradual changes to his diet could result in the removal of the pump at some point. In the meantime, he says, “if I have to continue to flush my stomach every day or every other day, then so be it.”

“I don’t want to be seated at the table with an empty plate,” he added. “This way I can eat together with my friends and my family, I can drink my beer or wine if I want to. And then I can just let go of 30 percent.”
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