The stomach implant that tricks you into feeling full
By David Hurst
Last updated at 10:40 PM on 10th January 2011
The latest option for *treating obesity is an electronic implant that tricks your brain into thinking you’re full.
Conventional weight-loss *surgery, such as gastric bypass and banding, involves *replumbing the digestive tract or reducing stomach size. The new treatment works by detecting when food reaches the stomach and then sending electrical signals to the brain that say the stomach is full before it actually is.
The Abiliti system, as it is known, is based on similar *technology used in cardiac pacemakers. It consists of a small battery-powered titanium ‘pacemaker’ implanted under the skin below the ribs. This device is attached to an electrode and a food detection sensor, which are placed inside the patient’s stomach (this is done via keyhole surgery).
When the sensor detects any food or drink, it sends a signal to the device. This then sends electrical impulses back to the electrode in the stomach, which stimulates the vagus nerve. This controls the movement of the digestive system and the production of digestive juices. The nerve then transmits a *signal to the area of the brain that controls appetite (the hypothalmus). Normally, nerve receptors in the stomach wall let the brain know when it’s full. The Abiliti *system, which was developed in the U.S. and Germany, effectively speeds up these messages.
The device also monitors the patient’s eating habits. While it can’t count calories, the aim is to provide doctors with a *picture of the portion size and number of snacks eaten. It transmits this information to a computer. Based on this data, doctors can recommend diet and lifestyle changes to help patients lose weight.
The device has been developed for patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 55, which is morbidly obese.
A clinical trial conducted in Germany in 2009 found patients using the system reduced their food intake by 45 per cent at each meal. Some patients have reported weight loss of half a stone a month in the first year.
Once the patient has reached a healthy BMI (18.5 to 24.9), the device can be switched off or removed.
Temporary measure: The device can be switched off or removed when the dieter has reached a healthy BMI
Being overweight or obese raises the risk of numerous health problems, including *diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Two-thirds of adults and a third of children in Britain are overweight or obese, and more than 30,000 people will die this year because of it.
Mr Abeezar Sarela, consultant in upper gastrointestinal and minimally invasive *surgery at the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, is pioneering the operation in Britain.
‘Abiliti is revolutionary because it’s the only device that targets behaviour,’ he says. ‘It enables monitoring of food intake and activity, so patients can be given objective feedback and device settings can be tailored for individual patterns.’