By Patrick Arnold
You may have heard of the new personal stomach pump invention by the guy that brought us the Segway personal transport thingy. The contraption is called the AspireAssist Device. In Europe the device has been clinically tested on several overweight people and found to be very effective over the long term. 24 obese people lost an average of 49 percent of excess weight (which comes to around 45 pounds) after using it as directed for a year. The makers of the AspireAssist device hope to gain FDA approval sometime in the near future.
This story has caused a lot of controversy. First of all, the product itself works in a rather disgusting manner. Basically it works like this – you get an operation where a tube is installed the goes from the inside of your stomach out through the front of your body. There is an opening on your belly skin where you can stick some sort of pump device. The idea is, after you eat a meal and wait 20 minutes (to let your food digest and get liquified and evenly dispersed) you then use the pump to remove 30 percent of your stomach contents. [I have no idea how it is able to gauge what 30 percent of your stomach contents are, but then again I don’t know how a Segway works either.] You then spray these contents into a suitable disposal apparatus such as your toilet, or if you are an animal lover, a baby birds mouth.
So why is this controversial you ask? Well, where do I start? First of all, the idea grosses people out and reminds them of bulimia (bulimia is generally considered a very bad thing). It also is offensive to those people who believe one should approach dieting from a healthy direction – with lifestyle changes that involve healthy food choices and eating habits and all that stuff. To them the idea of a quick fix approach sounds abhorrent, especially one that just seems so creepy. Some folks also express fear that this device may lead to health issues associated with classic bulimia, such as nutritional deficiencies and metabolic dysfunctions.
I think everyone should just chill out. First of all, if this device is approved it surely will be only for morbidly obese folks, and then only after classic diet and behavior counseling has proven ineffective. Mobidly obese folk are very sick and they almost always have severe diabetes and accompanying health issues that I can’t even begin to list. Right now the options for these folks are not good and usually involve some sort of bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is a horrible procedure and carries a frightening fatality risk. Plus, it can be absolute torture to prepare for, and even worse to recover from. This AspireAssist device on the other hand requires a relatively simple surgical procedure to install, and if needed the device can be removed quite easily and rapidly as well. And what about the risk of nutritional deficiencies and associated bulimia type issues? I don’t see the possibility of that, since you are removing stomach contents which should be homogenously distributed (if you wait the required 20 minutes after eating), and you are only removing 30 percent of the contents. It’s not really different then if you just ate 30 percent less to begin with.
So once you get over the yuck factor and think about it, AspireAssist may actually prove to be a pretty nifty and valuable medical breakthrough. Technological advancements are often met with alarm and disdain, especially if they encroach on sensitive subjects such as personal appearance and fitness. In the end though, they can come to be accepted if they fulfill their promise.