Friday, July 27, 2018

Less Common Weight Loss Methods

Diet, exercise, lifestyle modification, and anti-obesity drugs are the most common methods employed in the fight against overweight and obesity. Other less commonly used weight loss approaches include bariatric surgery, endoscopic approaches and methods that interrupt the nerve that carries hunger signals to the brain. One new nerve-interrupting approaches freezes that nerve.

Bariatric surgical approaches either shrink the size of the stomach or prevent calories from entering the digestive system. Examples of bariatric surgery include gastric bypass surgery and the sleeve gastrectomy. Endoscopic weight loss approaches are "performed entirely through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract using flexible endoscopes ..." Usually there is no surgical incision associated with Endoscopic weight loss methods. Many of the methods mimic the functions of bariatric surgery.

An example of the hunger-signaling nerve interrupting method is the Vagal Blocking Therapy or VBLOC. VBLOC was developed by EnteroMedics Inc., based in Minnesota. “VBLOC therapy works to control sensations of hunger using a pacemaker-like device your doctor is able to implant during a minimally invasive procedure. This device empowers you to eat less, make healthier choices and lose weight, without the lifestyle implications of traditional weight loss surgeries.”

Another example of the hunger-signaling nerve interrupting approach is one where one of the nerves that carry hunger signals to the brain is frozen. “During the procedure, an interventional radiologist inserts a needle through the patient's back and, guided by live images from a CT scan, uses argon gas to freeze the nerve, known as the posterior vagal trunk. This nerve, located at the base of the esophagus, is one of several mechanisms that tells the brain that the stomach is empty.”

In a preliminary study consisting of ten subjects with a BMI range of 30 to 37, the average weight loss was 3.6 percent.  According to the investigators, “Freezing the nerve that carries hunger signals to the brain may help patients with mild-to-moderate obesity lose weight ... . The treatment was determined safe and feasible in the initial pilot phase.”

More studies are planned. And if the nerve-freezing approach is effective, we will have another tool in our weight loss arsenal. 

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