The future of weight loss

Obesity is one of the most serious health problems worldwide. In the U.S., a whopping 1 in 3 adults is considered obese, and 2 in 3 are either obese or overweight by clinical definitions. It’s estimated that by 2030 more than half the world’s population will be overweight or obese. Associated health problems include certain types of cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure.

Despite wide acceptance by physicians, weight loss surgery like the gastric bypass procedure has been largely rejected by healthcare consumers. Only 1 to 2 percent of people who qualify for weight loss surgery decide to have it. For the other 99 percent, the idea of permanently changing their bodies and the risk of life-threatening complications aren’t worth the potential for weight loss.


Other consumers are discouraged by how difficult it is to get insurance coverage for weight loss procedures. Many have to appeal several times before getting approval, and some are never approved at all. And many Americans don’t have the $23,000 it may cost to pay for gastric bypass surgery out of their pockets.

What Are Stomach Balloons?

Stomach balloons (also known as gastric balloons), a less invasive, cheaper weight loss therapy, are growing in popularity. Insurance companies often refuse to cover a gastric balloon, but the total cost of the procedure is under $10,000. Instead of permanently changing a patient’s body, a gastric balloon is meant to be a temporary weight loss aid.

A silicone balloon is inserted endoscopically (down through the esophagus) and then inflated with a sterile saline solution. The balloon takes up space in the stomach to help patients adjust to healthier portion sizes. The entire procedure takes about 20-30 minutes, and the balloon is inflated to about the size of a grapefruit. The balloon stays in place for six months, which is thought to be long enough to change the eating habits of most patients.

During those six months, patients also receive diet and lifestyle counseling to help them get the most out of the procedure. After the balloon is removed, patients continue with another six months of counseling to help them keep off the weight they’ve lost.

In one study patients who had received ORBERA, the most popular gastric balloon device, lost an average of 21.8 pounds while the device was in place and maintained a weight loss average of 19.4 pounds in the six months after removal. Comparatively, patients who didn’t receive a device but participated in the weight loss counseling part of the program lost an average of seven pounds.