What Is The Weight Loss Balloon?


Nutritionist Keri Glassman, who regularly shares her expertise on Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live, is answering your nutrition, diet and health questions.

Want to know how celebrities are getting their fabulous post-baby bodies? And, if their diet plan is right for you? Is there a downside to the latest diet trend? Keri is here to help!

This week’s question…

“I heard I can just pop a pill, a balloon will inflate in my stomach, and I will lose weight plain and simple with no surgery! Is this for real?” --Cassie F., Nashville, Tenn.

Keri says…

Is It That Easy?
Don’t hold your breath, or should I say, open your mouth for this magic pill. Nothing is that easy, and if it was, we would all be doing it and no one would be overweight. Weight loss balloons have been around for years, but most recently, a new company has come into the spotlight sending people across the border for this “miracle” procedure - which may be why you’ve been hearing about it. This new, swallowable balloon (in pill form) that doesn’t require surgery has been shown to promote weight loss in people who are overweight and obese. It works by taking up room in the stomach, hence making you feel full. Before you start imagining a big red balloon in your stomach, here’s the low-down.

What The Science Says:
Balloons (filled with saline and gas) have been used since as early as 1985 for weight loss. People did lose weight with these balloons, but had trouble keeping the weight off after they were removed. The newest pill form of the balloon hasn’t been researched much at all, and hasn’t been approved for use in the United States (FYI - it’s being done in Europe and Mexico). The average weight loss has been about 20 pounds in 12 weeks, and side effects include gastric ulcers, perforation, abdominal pain, and vomiting. You may be thinking, “eh, a little abdominal pain to lose 20 pounds, and all I have to do is swallow a pill?” Mmmm, no. Keep reading!

The ‘Surgery’ They Are Not Telling You About:
While you aren’t going under the knife, per say, it’s not as easy as swallowing a pill. Shocker?! Not! Once the pill and attached tube are swallowed (yes, you also swallow a long tube that remains hanging out of your mouth), the doctors fill the balloon with air and then pull the tube out. Over the course of the next 12 weeks, one or two more balloons can be added, making the stomach feel even fuller. At the end of the 12 week period the balloons need to be deflated and removed via an endoscopy. For those of you not up to date on medical jargon, here’s a quick trip to med school. During an endoscopy, something (usually a long tube with a camera attached) is inserted down the esophagus and into your stomach. Here, you will be sedated as this procedure is rather invasive, and uncomfortable. Once the balloons are removed, you’re on your own! What’s that mean? Keep scrolling.

Don’t Forget About Changing Your Relationship With Food:
In case you missed it, these balloons are only placed for 12 weeks, and after that your stomach goes right back to the way it was. Translation: if you haven’t learned how to properly fill your stomach and pay attention to your hunger quotient, you may end up ballooning (pun intended!) right back to where you started. Although this may give you a jumpstart, to have long lasting results, people must change their relationship with food over the 12 weeks to continue to lose weight and keep it off (after all, it’s not changing the size of your stomach).

The Bottom Line:
Although this may end up being a safe, viable form of weight loss for some people, it is not a quick fix, so don’t go booking your flight to Europe just yet. You still have to do all the hard work involved with losing weight; eating right, exercising, managing stress, and getting enough sleep to have long term success. So, unfortunately, we still haven’t uncovered the magic pill for weight loss, but if we ever do, I’ll definitely let you know!

-- Terri MacLeod & Keri Glassman

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