New weight loss technique: swallowing a pill

Diana Williams has the story.
March 11, 2014 4:16:25 PM PDT
A new capsule could help people lose 20 to 30 pounds in a few months without surgery, but Americans must leave the country to get it.

Ora Verduzco of San Diego, Calif. wants to lose 30 pounds. She has dieted for the last couple of years, lost weight and gained it back.

She isn't obese, so surgery is out of the question. But she needs something more.

"I don't dive into just anything. I don't fall for all of the weight loss gimmicks out there," said Verduzco.

She found Obalon on YouTube. It's made in San Diego, and is the first weight loss balloon you can swallow.

Anybody that can swallow can get it. Unless you're in the U.S.

Dr. Ariel Ortiz administers the Obalon device at the Obesity Control Center in Tijuana, Mexico, where Verduzco visited.

"What we are looking at is very similar weight loss to gastric surgery, but instead of a year and a half, we are obtaining results in three to four months," said Ortiz.

Verduzco swallows a pill connected to a string. It goes into her stomach and is inflated with the push of a button.

"As soon as the patient swallows it and we inflate it, they say, doc, I was hungry and now I'm not hungry anymore," said Ortiz.

The stomach gets used to the balloon after three weeks, and you pop another pill. You can have up to three balloons over the four month period.

The patient uses an app to log what you eat.

Doctors at the clinic see everything the patient enters.

"It's almost like having a nutritionist in your pocket every single day," said Verduzco.

If you overeat, you get sick. Critics have worried about the device rupturing or causing a blockage.

"In the worst case scenario, what we would most fear is that the balloon deflates in the stomach, then it would pass through and into the toilet," said Ortiz.

Obalon costs between $3,000 and $4,000 at the clinic. Verduzco said the balloon is just one part of her fight to get fit.

"The rest is really you and the commitment you make to following the correct diet," she said.

Doctors say this will be the next big thing in weight loss. Dr. Ortiz gets hundreds of requests a week for the device.

It's approved in Mexico and Europe. It's going through FDA pilot trials in the U.S.