Should This Happen?

In Stephen King’s novel (and movie) Thinner, a vengeful gypsy curses an overweight and corrupt lawyer, causing him to drop pounds as though they were steaming hot potatoes.

Sounds a lot better and easier than jump-roping one’s way to slimness, like Lee Adama after most of the Battlestar Galactica crew settles down to life on New Caprica.

If only it were that easy, right? If only we didn’t have to change our eating or exercising habits…

Be careful what you wish for. Now there’s a device that makes Stephen King’s weight loss tactics look tame.

Enter the AspireAssist Aspiration Therapy System. I mean that literally. Promoted as an alternative to gastric bypass or gastric restriction, this stomach pump siphons undigested food out of a person’s stomach about 20 minutes after eating.

Before using the device, a patient undergoes outpatient surgery to have a tube inserted into the stomach, connecting to a port implanted in the abdominal skin. The device links to the tube through the port.

Now the fun begins.

A patient eats as he or she typically would, and about 20 minutes later, excuses himself. Even in a public bathroom, I’m pretty sure people would grant privacy for this.

Then, the patient takes the device out of its travel pouch, puts the lanyard around his neck, fills the reservoir with water, and hooks it up to the stomach through the port. Then, with a slide of the valve the patient’s stomach contents siphon through the tube into the toilet or some other receptacle. A patient can infuse the water from the reservoir into the stomach to loosen food and promote further aspiration. Patients are advised to use the device three times a day, or after every major meal.

Here’s a video of the process.

According to the Aspire Bariatrics website, preliminary clinical studies show that the AspireAssist device helps the average patient lose about half of his excess weight in approximately one year, comparable to gastric restriction and gastric bypass, but without the surgery. The site also says that the system has very low infection and complication rates. Most users lose weight consistently for about a year and continue using the system after that. The hope is for users to develop healthier lifestyles and reach a point where they don’t have to aspirate as much, though the website acknowledges that reducing use of the device might result in weight gain. Patients can choose to keep and use the device indefinitely.

To me, this sounds a little bit like a more direct form of bulimia, though the Aspire Bariatrics site rightly points out that bulimia is a psychological condition, and that the implantation of this device doesn’t cause or promote bulimia. Still, this process seems to suggest that patients can continue eating, or overeating, as much as they like so long as they suck out enough calories before they’re absorbed by the intestines.

The AspireAssist was approved for sale in Europe just over a year ago, and has not yet been approved for sale in the U.S., though given our obesity rates, that’s likely to change.

In 1984, Isaac Asimov and George R.R. Martin co-edited an anthology called The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book, showcasing various sci-fi stories dealing with weight struggles. While the writers describe various methods of weight-management—cutting off body parts as motivation/punishment, achieving weightlessness without reducing size (weight-loss would be a blast if we could escape gravity’s clutches!), and hiring robot chefs, to name of few, none of them came up with anything like this, which should perhaps tell us something.

Despite the sweat, I’m willing to bet that Lee Adama would reach again for the jump rope—or even for the boxing gloves, despite getting his ass kicked by his dad and a girl.


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