Good news: The FDA just approved a powerful new tool in the fight against obesity. Bad news: It might make you lose your lunch, literally

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Updated: June 15, 2016
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Any dieter surrounded by tasty treats at a party knows how tough it can be to eat less-especially day in and day out. But if you can't get people to stop putting so much food into their bodies, perhaps the next best thing is to find a way to take it out? That's the idea behind the AspireAssist, a weight loss device just approved by the FDA that works like a vacuum for your stomach.

The mechanics are pretty simple: A port is surgically implanted into a person's stomach. Then, 20-30 minutes after eating their usual meal, they use the pump to pull the undigested food out of their stomach-like a feeding tube but in reverse. About 30 percent of the total calories eaten go straight into the toilet while still allowing the person to eat without feeling deprived. And it seems to work; preliminary studies showed that it more than tripled the amount of weight lost. (Psst... These are The 8 Worst Weight Loss Diets in History.)

But not everyone's a fan. One doctor called it a "bulimia machine," and he's not wrong. The trick has long been seen in treatment centers for eating disorders when patients use their feeding tubes to expel eaten food, a way to purge without vomiting. To avoid furthering or possibly triggering an eating disorder, the FDA cautions that the device should only be implanted in people over 22 years old with a BMI of 35 or higher, and that patients should be constantly monitored by a doctor. (Make sure you know The Science Behind Why We Binge.)

Side effects of the AspireAssist include "occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea," as well as side effects from the placement of the tube, including sore throats, bleeding and pneumonia, and irritations or conditions around the valve on the outside of the body. But while these sound dire, they're nothing compared to the side effects of bariatric surgery-the most common type of medical procedure for obesity now.

The FDA says that this not meant to be a permanent solution and patients should receive counseling to learn how to make healthier eating habits and choices. (Because, guys, There Is a Serious Global Obesity Problem.) But it remains to be seen how exactly that will work since the device is essentially providing a get-out-of-diet-free card. How could anyone learn how it feels to properly nourish their body and pay attention to their own hunger cues when a machine is constantly subverting that? Would they even want to? And where does it even end?

Is this the fulfillment of the dream being able to eat anything we want and never get fat? Maybe it's time we all get a new, healthier dream.


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