A Weight-Loss Device That Sucks Food Out of Your Stomach

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin this post, I want to make it very clear that I wholeheartedly advocate for the use of weight-loss devices and procedures as life-saving measures for those who, for medical reasons and such, are unable to lose weight on their own. My fear with the device I am about to discuss is that its FDA approval perpetuates disordered eating, and I worry about future off-label use. 

SOURCE: Aspire

SOURCE: Aspire

Today, the FDA approved a weight-loss device that drains a portion of a person's stomach content after every meal (30% of consumed calories), meant for obese patients, 22-years and older, with a BMI (body mass index) between 35-55, and are unable to lose weight through other approaches (excluding surgery).

Basically, you attach a pump to a hose surgically implanted in your stomach about 20 to 30 minutes after you have completed a meal. The hose, which is connected to a valve, is "switched on", which opens the valve and drains 30% of calories consumed over a 10 minute period right into the toilet (yep, that's right!)

During clinical trials, the AspireAssist patients lost an average of 12.1% of their body weight after a year, compared to a loss of 3.6% for the control group. 

This device has already garnered quite a bit of negative attention, with some claiming it is a form of "assisted bulimia" and categorized it as a "enabling device, not a helping device." 

Molly's Take

Today, in what I can only assume was a moment of collective insanity, the FDA approved a device called AspireAssist, which removes a portion of your recently digested meal in an effort to treat obesity. 

The whole point of this is that it drains some of the recently consumed food into the toilet (30% of the calories consumed) before the calories/food are allowed to cause weight gain.

Do you know what causes weight gain in MOST circumstances (again, read the above disclaimer where I acknowledge this is NOT the case for everyone)? BAD FOOD CHOICES. So if you’re eating healthy foods, even a lot of it, this shouldn’t necessarily be needed. So again, we’re advocating for people to:

a) eat what they want, because hey, 30% of it is going right in the toilet in 20 minutes (hello, bulimia!) and b) they don’t really need to THINK about what they're eating because this device takes care of it.

Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? This is assisted bulimia. And sure, maybe the person doesn’t have an eating disorder before they use this, but I’d LOVE to know the percentage that end up with one afterwards.

They can say that they are going to be working with a nutritionist and there will be “healthy eating habits” instilled, but c’mon. This is SO going to be used off-label, it’s not even funny.

What is considered "off-label" use?

Off-label is when a medicine or device is advertised and used in a way that is not specifically stated on its package labeling.

Many might argue that it would be incredibly difficult to use a medical device attached to your stomach-lining off-label. But hear me out for a second:

Off-label is not just restricted to how its used, it can also be about how its marketed or described to people.  For example, a physician or spokesperson for a particular procedure for weight loss may promote it for those looking to drop some pounds for "life milestones," such as weddings or high school reunions. This type of procedure is typically for people within specific BMI ranges, who have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise. To tout it as a way to drop weight for a vacation is considered 'off-label' and not the purpose for why it was created.

I agree that there are those who, for medical reasons and such, can legitimately NOT lose the weight without medical assistance, and weight loss devices such as this can be life-saving. THAT is on-label.  But if you pay attention long enough, you start to see a) doctors who do not follow the on-label guidelines of providing sound counseling to their patients throughout the process, and afterwards, (which is required) and b) the marketing and promotion of a particular product or device, without directly saying so, shifts ever-so-slightly to appease to a market it was not originally intended for.

I'll be honest. These are simply fears at this point.

I could be proven wrong, which I'd be so thrilled about, honestly. But all I know is that I am going to continue to advocate for sustainable, lifelong healthy habits, and fight tooth & nail to disavow any and all fad diets & quick fixes on the market.