This Weight-Loss Device Sends Electric Signals to Your Stomach to Control Hunger

With obesity an ever-growing problem in the US, finding a solution to help control the epidemic is a top priority for many. This month, the Food and Drug Administration approved an implantable device that suppresses appetite to help patients lose weight.

Much like gastric bypass surgery, the device, called Maestro Rechargeable System, targets the digestive tract ¡ª unlike going fully under the knife, however, it doesn’t alter anything permanently. Instead of decreasing the size of your stomach, the Maestro device sends intermittent bursts of electrical currents to the vagus nerve, which travels from the abdomen to the brain stem and is responsible for involuntary digestive functions. These electrical currents suppress signals that tell your stomach to expand and relax in preparation for food. The result: patients implanted with the device feel less hungry, full sooner, and full longer. In a yearlong trial, the 157 patients who used the device had lost an average of 24 pounds, compared to 16 pounds in the 76 patients who did not use the device.

The laparoscopic procedure to implant the device takes 60 to 90 minutes; doctors believe that it may be less expensive than certain types of gastric bypass surgery, and since it’s reversible it can be switched off when needed, such as during pregnancy. Like gastric bypass surgery, this new device isn’t for those with just a few pounds to lose: it’s approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 to 45 (or above 35 if they have at least one other obesity-related condition, such as high blood pressure). It’s no magic solution, but with obesity rates climbing, this new device could be an important tool for helping people control excess weight.

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