When Willpower Isn't Enough

8/31/2008 BOSTON, Mass. "I've done weight watchers. I've done Jenny Craig. I've done them all," Sabrina Cleveland told Ivanhoe. "I'd lose the 50 lbs and then I'd gain 75 right back. I never could keep it off for a long period of time."

Cleveland is not alone. A study done by the American Consumer Opinion found more than 70 percent of Americans attempted some type of diet last year – 24 percent low-cal diet, 22 percent low fat, 19 percent low carb. Less than 10 percent of all of them were successful at keeping the weight off. That's why Cleveland turned to gastric bypass.

"Total, I've lost 170lbs," Cleveland said.

But gastric bypass has its down side. A meal after surgery consists of just liquids … maybe a few tablespoons of tuna. If a person eats too much, they get sick.

"You get the sweats and you just want to lie down," Cleveland said.

Now, doctors are taking a new approach -- less invasive -- with fewer side effects. The VBLOC blocks hunger signals.

"One of the things they think it does is send messages from the brain to the stomach that it's time to eat I'm hungry," Ann Marie Melanson, R.N., clinical research coordinator at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., told Ivanhoe.

The neuroregulator is implanted under the skin. Leads are threaded up to the espohagus where it meets the stomach and wraps around two vegal nerves. Electrical impulses are sent every five to 10 seconds, blocking the message from the brain to the stomach, tricking the body into feeling full.

"It's not magic. You're going to have to work with it," Melanson said. "You are going to have to diet. You are going to have to exercise. But hopefully, this is going to give you the edge of blocking the impulse of hunger to help make you successful."

The VBLOC is still in trials, but compared to gastric bypass, it's less invasive, it doesn't alter your anatomy, it's reversible, it's an out-patient procedure and recovery is three to four days.

Barbara McMacken is seeing the benefits of being the first person in the United States to get an experimental device called Endobarrier. It prevents food from being absorbed in the body until it reaches the lower bowel.

"Endobarier is a sleeve that is placed without surgery into the patient's small intestine," Keith Gersin, M.D., chief of bariatric surgery at Carolina's Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., told Ivanhoe.

McMacken lost 17 pounds in three months.

"I did not feel hungry like I used to," she said. "I could get into clothes that I couldn't get into before."

Patients in the study lost an average of 10 to 15 percent of their body weight in three months.

Another new way to fight fat -- a fat pill. Researchers at the University of Texas are working to retrain fat cells to burn, not store fat. When fat cells get too big, the fat leaks into your muscles. Researchers have discovered a protein that tells the fat cell to burn its stored fat. By understanding this process, researchers can now work on creating a pill to deliver the protein to the cells.

From popping a pill, shocking your system and blocking fat, these are three fat fighters of the future that may help cure the obesity epidemic.

According to a study by Yale University, nearly half of the people responding to an online survey said they would give up a year of their life rather than be fat. Thirty percent said they would rather walk away from their marriage, give up having children, be depressed or become alcoholic rather than be obese.

VBLOC Trial Screening
(866) 978-2562

Carolinas Weight Management and Wellness Center
(704) 355-9484


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