Dr. Manny: Don't go pumping my stomach yet

The company Aspire Bariatrics has developed a new device meant to aid those struggling with obesity: a personal stomach pump designed to suck food straight out of a person’s stomach.  Twenty minutes after a patient finishes a meal, he or she turns on the pump and removes up to 30 percent of the stomach’s contents – before the calories have been absorbed.

Even though we have preliminary information on this device, I continue to have significant doubts about the safety of this product.

From a medical point of view, I’m concerned by the loss of not only stomach content, but also of vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium from the stomach content.  This could have a debilitating effect on other organ systems.

Second, I worry about dehydration and the effects it can have on the body.  This could also pose problems with the absorption of protein, which is essential for building muscle.

And finally, the actual irritation this could cause in the stomach lining could be problematic.  I know that this is being looked at as an alternative to bariatric surgery, but we have to be careful that by creating new methods of losing weight, we don’t create more harm than good.

The mental health component of bariatric surgery gets lost in translation.  To me, bariatric surgery for the extremely obese is a stepping stone, if you will, to lose a lot of weight. But ultimately, it’s changes in lifestyle that allow patients to maintain the weight loss,  and there’s no single device in the world that can achieve that for them.  Even with bariatric surgery, there are significant failure rates among patients who don’t make significant changes.