Using intragastric balloons to help people lose weight

DENVER - The holidays are upon us, and so are the calories -- but maintaining weight is not just a struggle during the holidays, some of us struggle to stay fit all year-round. 

A new weight-loss program called Obera was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and it is intended for patients looking to lose 30 to 40 pounds, who are not candidates for weight loss surgery.

It looks and feels like a typical water balloon.

According to the official Obera website, Obera is a soft, expandable balloon that is placed into the stomach for 6 months to help you with portion control.

For more than two decades, the global medical community has used intragastric balloons to help patients lose weight.

“It's been done in Europe frequently,” said Dr. Jonathan Schoen, medical director with the Surgical Weight Loss Center at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Surgeons like Dr. Jonathan Schoen are eager to reintroduce the technology to overweight Americans.

“There's an estimated million people in Colorado who would fit that criteria,” Dr. Schoen said, “The FDA has been very hesitant to look at it again until recently. The FDA trial looked pretty good so they just approved it.”

He said it's less invasive than surgery and patients can expect to drop 30 to 40 pounds in six months. 

"It goes in completely deflated. It is placed down the esophagus and into the stomach and once it is in the stomach, we push in on average 600 milliliters of fluid,” he said.

But like any weight-loss system, it is not a quick fix.

“Whether it is surgery or the balloon, it requires a motivated person who follows a diet, who exercises. To make it the most successful especially for the long term,” Dr. Schoen said.

There are side effects in the first few days, including nausea and discomfort. The balloon has to come out 6 months after it's put in, if not, the risks go up. You will gain the weight right back if you do not watch your diet and exercise.

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