'Balloon pill' designed to fill you up, slim you down

A new diet pill claims it can help you lose significant weight without major surgery. Unlike any other pill, this one expands like a balloon in your stomach.

The balloon diet pill was created by the California company Obalon. The makers say their pill is unique because it helps you lose the weight without the need for surgery or anesthesia. And they say it's safe and effective.

Here's how it works: As the patient swallows the pill, IT remains attached to a thin tube. Once it lands in your stomach, doctors use the tube to inflate the balloon to about the size of a small apple, and then they remove the tube from your stomach.

The company says you can have up to three balloons in your body to help reduce your appetite. Three months is the longest they can stay in your stomach.

Dr. Ariel Ortiz is the surgeon who helped design the pill. He trains doctors  around the world on how to use it. He spoke to us from his internationally certified Obesity Control Center in Mexico, where many of his patients first try the pill.

Ortiz says with the balloons, patients get fuller faster - but the pill is not a magic bullet.

Before patients are allowed to take the pill, Ortiz says they must agree to improve their eating habits. He claims some patients have lost up to 20 pounds in three months.

As for getting the balloon out, the patient is given a light sedation and the doctor uses a long, thin tube to deflate and remove it.

Obalon claims it has had no issues with the insertion or the removal of the balloons.

Ortiz says there's a slim chance the balloon can deflate on its own. He says the few times that has happened patients have been able to safely pass the balloon through their digestive system.

Right now, the pill is widely used around the world, but it's not yet approved for use in the U.S. Americans are traveling to try this new alternative weight loss procedure.

Regulations and safety are higher in the U.S. than other parts of the world, so you're rolling the dice by traveling for something that is not yet approved," said weight loss surgeon Dr. Rachel Moore."

As for the cost, the Obalon pill doesn't come cheap. Three balloons will run you close to $5,000. That price is why some physicians suggest using the money in another way.

"That would buy you a personal trainer and a consultation with a dietician for all the lifestyle changes that are probably the only lasting effect of the Obalon treatment," Moore said.

Old-fashioned exercise and learning how to eat better are things she believes will have a longer-lasting impact.

There's no word if or when the federal government will approve the Obalon balloon pill for use in the U.S., however, Ortiz says he has received many requests, including some from Louisianans who want to try it.

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