Can't Lose Weight? Try Swallowing These Medical Balloons

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Losing weight is one of the most common goals people have. Especially in this country, where image and fitness are of paramount value. And losing weight is notoriously difficult. Everyone has their own pet theory about how it's best done, and the health and fitness industry is choked with people claiming to hold the keys to the kingdom. One new weight loss technology may actually offer a legitimate new opportunity to people for whom other means haven't worked.

It's called the Obalon Balloon System. It's been approved by the FDA, and poses an interesting, though controversial, new approach to weight loss. Over a six-month treatment window, patients are asked to swallow three inflatable balloons that expand in their stomachs. The balloons occupy enough space to significantly curb the amount of food they can consume.

The program is meant for people with a BMI of thirty or more, and have already failed to lose weight through conventional means like diet and exercise. It is meant, in their words, to be an "adjunct to a moderate intensity diet and behavior modification program."


Six months after they're swallowed, the balloons are removed. By which time, the patient has hopefully lost a significant amount of weight and modified their habits enough to make the weight loss sustainable over the long term.

One of the first people to try the treatment is named Dana Goossens, who wrote about her experience with the Obalon Balloons in an essay for Time.

"The procedure was surprisingly simple. During the first session, I swallowed a small capsule that was tied to a tiny micro-catheter. The doctor then inflated the balloon once it was in my stomach—it gets to be about the size of an orange—and removed the catheter. The whole process took about 10 minutes. In the beginning, I could tell there was an object inside of me. At night it was a bit more uncomfortable as I could feel the balloon move a bit and squeak, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

One month after the first balloon was installed, she swallowed a second one. And two months after balloon #2 was put in place, the third one was put in. By the end of it, Goossens had lost an impressive 40 pounds. She is hopeful that she can keep the weight off despite the balloons being removed.

"I'm hopeful this weight loss is sustainable... By the time the trial ended, I felt confident I could maintain my healthy lifestyle even after getting the balloons removed. And I've even lost more weight since then."

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