Weight Loss Implant Approved, Blocks Hunger Signals From Brain

If your New Year's weight loss resolutions are already failing and you're looking for something to give your fitness program a second wind, the FDA just approved a new weight loss device for the first time since 2007. The Maestro Rechargeable System isn't a pill or dietary supplement, but an implanted device that diminishes your appetite by blocking hunger signals to your brain.

The device was developed for weight loss use from a treatment for epilepsy called neuromodulation. A small, pacemaker-like device is implanted under the skin of the abdomen. Electrical leads are placed on the stomach that send tiny electrical impulses to the vagus nerve to interrupt the process where the stomach readies itself for food and triggers hunger, allowing reduced food intake and weight loss.

A year-long clinical trial of the procedure, dubbed vagal blocking or VBLOC, showed that over half of those with the device lost about 20 percent of their excess weight. Almost 40 percent of those in the trial had a weight loss of at least 25 percent of their excess weight, not total body weight.

While the clinical trials show that VBLOC is effective, it's far from a miracle cure for weight loss according to one of the physicians who participated in a clinical trial.

Dr. Nissen Nahmias, a bariatric surgeon who participated in a clinical trial in Virginia, told News 8 that while the procedure is less drastic than bariatric surgery, it's not as effective for weight loss. Nahmias said it's really just a safer, non-permanent option for those who aren't quite ready to commit to bariatric surgery for weight loss.

If you have 100 pounds of excess, the goal would be to lose about 10-15 for every 100 pounds and you would probably lose 8 to 10 pounds.
The implantation is an outpatient procedure done by laparoscopy. The weight loss device delivers five-minute bursts of electrical impulses alternating with five minutes of inactivity. It's designed to automatically shut down during sleeping hours.

To qualify for the weight loss device, you need to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 to 45 percent, and at least one obesity-related medical diagnosis, such as diabetes. It costs between $20,000 to $30,000.

If the price tag is too high, or you're not quite ready to commit to having medical devices implanted in your body, you can always take the traditional approach of exercise and dietary changes for weight loss. See some of the hottest trends for 2015 below.

[Photo courtesy of Missoulian]