Back in the 1970s, the popular Carol Burnett Show did a recurring sketch making fun of daytime soap operas. The name of the parody, "As the Stomach Turns," was itself a playful poke at a popular afternoon soap of the era. Who would have guessed that the title of the classic comedy sketch would very nearly describe a serious medical device which has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Suddenly, it's not so funny anymore.
Called AspireAssist and manufactured by Aspire Bariatrics, this medical device is surgically implanted, piercing the abdominal wall and providing a port through which stomach contents can be siphoned off. The individual connects a tube to the port, which lies flush against the skin, and then empties about 30 percent of the calories they've consumed into the toilet.
The device comes with a safety feature which limits its use to 115 times (about five to six weeks of use) before the patient has to return to their physician for a replacement part in order to continue therapy. Patients further have to be monitored so that as they lose abdominal girth, the tube connecting the stomach to the port can be shortened, maintaining the port flush against the skin.
The FDA press release states that the agency has approved use of the device for individuals 22 years or older with a body mass index of 35 to 55 and who have been unable to achieve and maintain weight loss through non-surgical weight-loss therapy. According to the release, the FDA reviewed the results of a clinical trial involving the AspireAssist device. All participants were given appropriate lifestyle therapy, but 60 received only therepy while 111 received therapy and the surgically-implanted device. Those with the AspireAssist device lost an average of 12.1 percent of their total body weight as opposed to the control patients who lost only 3.6 percent.
Side Effects and Risks
Side effects of the AspireAssist weight-loss device are occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. Risks of the device are many:
including sore throat, pain, abdominal bloating, indigestion, bleeding, infection, nausea, vomiting, sedation-related breathing problems, inflammation of the lining of the abdomen, sores on the inside of the stomach, pneumonia, unintended puncture of the stomach or intestinal wall and death.
Risks related to the abdominal opening for the port valve include abdominal discomfort or pain, irritation, hardening or inflammation of the skin around the site where the tube is placed, leakage, bleeding and/or infection around the site where the tube is placed and device migration into the stomach wall. All have the potential to necessitate removal of the device. After device removal, there may be a risk of persistent fistula, an abnormal passageway between the stomach and the abdominal wall.
A Risk-Free Way to Lose Weight
When an obese patient comes into my office for the first time, I have to really restrain myself. It's all I can do not to pour out all at once the life-saving information I've learned in my 30 years of medical practice. I have to pace myself, carefully suggesting that if they are interested, I can help them lose weight and keep it off without ever feeling hungry. I even know how to help stop the cravings and improve the feelings of anger or depression.
I think of my patient, Mike, who at 571 pounds was overwhelmed when I offered him a plate piled high with yams, lentils, quinoa, squashes, and greens. I suppose he had expected a little plate of rabbit food. "Can I really have all of this?" he asked incredulously. "No, you can go back for SECONDS," we told him. And he did. Day after day he steadily lost weight and kept it off, as long as he stayed on my program.
Drew was another patient who's story continues to be inspiring. He lost 36.6 percent of his total weight in 11 months. He reports that both his mood and his marriage turned around as he based his diet on the types of whole plant meals, free from added oil, which I describe in my Starch-Smart® System. My patients are thrilled with the weight loss they experience, but like Drew, many are surprised and almost more excited about the positive emotional changes they experience when they eat whole plants. Kay says, "I have a different outlook on life, and really have noticed that I am in a totally different place now emotionally and mentally."
Since John McDougall, MD, also recommends a diet centered on unrefined starches and no added oil, the experience of his patients mirrors mine. Anne Heineman reports losing 27.7 percent of her total body weight in two years. Cloudy Rockwell lost 41 percent. The Engine 2 Diet reports similar results, all from eating whole plant foods with no added oil. Dave reports losing 27 percent of total body weight in five months; Roy lost 18.8 percent in a year.
The percentages of total weight lost differ because of the starting weight of each individual. However, it's pretty typical that people who dedicate themselves to a whole plant food lifestyle with no added oil end up right around their high school weight, assuming their weight at that time was healthy.
Putting Plants to Work for Weight Loss
Whenever I give seminars on the power of whole plant foods to prevent, stop, or even reverse the common lifestyle diseases, I see an interesting thing happen in the audience. Initially, people are a little skeptical. Many sit with crossed arms, sizing me up and listening for "the catch." They don't really believe that avoiding animal products and ditching the oil from their diets while loading up on low-fat whole, delicious plant foods may do all that I'm promising. But as the evidence mounts, as they hear the science, examine the historical facts, listen to the success stories, and think through the logic of a diet based on whole plant foods, they become excited. The light goes on, and I can tell they start feeling hopeful. But next, an amazing thing happens for some people in the room. Defeat. It's almost palpable. As people think about the cravings that overwhelm them, about the foods they "can't" give up, they sadly wonder if perhaps "plants won't work" for them. That's when I start the next session of the weekend, "Why We Do What We Do?"
Help for Weight Loss Is Available
There are two main principles that lead to success in changing to a whole plant diet. First, understanding what drives our cravings and how to overcome them sets us free to pursue optimal health through plants. Second, we have to understand how to eat enough volume to get full and stay energized on a plant-based diet. To help teach these life-changing principles, I offer seminars, maintain this website, and record videos in addition to maintaining an active medical practice.
If you'd like to listen to sessions from the seminar, my talks — including Why We Do What We Do? — are available at Veggievore.com. And this site has articles explaining the concept of calore concentration so you can learn to power through your life fueled by whole plant foods with no oil. Click here for a list of articles to get you started with the principle, and then read What Does a Plant-Based Dinner Plate Look Like? to give you more ideas. Over at the growing Helpful Supportive Community, you will find others who are walking this journey and can help you get started. Or, if you'd like individualized help but live too far away from my practice which is located in Austin, Texas, I offer food coaching by phone. This coaching allows me to explain how whole plant foods fit into the health goals which you establish with your physician. Call my office at 512.295.7877 for more information on obtaining more health with less medicine.
(1) If you are not losing desired weight on a whole food plant based diet, please read my article in VegWorld Magazine entitled Why Weight? Abstaining from Unsafe Lifestyle Choices