They Want Fat People to Swallow Balloons Now

WTF are you doingA bunch of you have asked me to blog about this new weight loss trend.  I think it says a lot about this that I couldn’t remember the clinical name so I googled “balloon you swallow to lose weight” and it came right up.  So, you know, yikes.

The basics: Orbera is a balloon that a doctor places into the stomach and then fills with saline.  It then floats around the stomach, taking up space.

Let’s see what we can learn from their own website:

During the first two weeks you can expect:

Placement of the balloon within the stomach produces an expected and predictable reaction characterized most commonly by a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux, belching, esophagitis, heartburn, diarrhea and, at times, abdominal, back or epigastric pain and cramping. Food digestion may be slowed during this adjustment period. These symptoms can be treated with antiemetic, antispasmodic, and anticholinergic medications

But hold on because there’s more in store for you:

• Gastric discomfort, feelings of nausea and vomiting following balloon placement as the digestive system adjusts to the presence of the balloon.

• Continuing nausea and vomiting. This could result from direct irritation of the lining of the stomach or as a result of the balloon blocking the outlet of the stomach. It is even theoretically possible that the balloon could prevent vomiting (not nausea or retching) by blocking the inlet to the stomach from the esophagus.

• A feeling of heaviness in the abdomen.

• Abdominal or back pain, either steady or cyclic.

• Gastroesophageal reflux.

• Influence on digestion of food.

• Blockage of food entering into the stomach.

• Bacterial growth in the fluid which fills the balloon. Rapid release of this fluid into the intestine could cause infection, fever, cramps and diarrhea.

• Injury to the lining of the digestive tract as a result of direct contact with the balloon, grasping forceps, or as a result of increased acid production by the stomach. This could lead to ulcer formation with pain, bleeding or even perforation. Surgery could be necessary to correct this condition.


• Balloon deflation and subsequent replacement.

And there are at least a couple of ways that it can kill you:

• Death due to complications related to gastric or esophageal perforation is possible.

• Death due to complications related to intestinal obstruction is possible.

In their own study the 160 people who got the balloon experienced a total of 810 “device-related Adverse Events.” in six months or less.


And what are we risking this for?

The average participant lost 21.8 pounds in the six months they spent having adverse events (that, luckily, didn’t kill them) from a silicon balloon floating around their stomachs.  The control group lost 7 pounds.

Six months later, our balloon swallowers had regained 5.6 pounds (25.69%) of the weight that they lost in the first 6 months which puts them right on track to have gained back all of their weigh (with some regaining more than they lost) within 5 years. The control group had regained .7 pounds (10%,) also on track for the weight regain that the long-term studies of weight loss tell us to expect. Of course, like almost all weight loss studies, at this point they simply stopped following the subjects.

The only possible “good thing” about this that I can see is that some people whose doctors might want to amputate their stomachs might stick a balloon in them instead.  It’s still terrible, but at least it is reversible and fewer people will die, or live the rest of their lives  with horrific side effects, as a result.

So, basically, once again, they are asking fat people to risk our lives (not to mention quality of life) for nothing. Welcome to the “War on Obesity” which wants us thin or dead, and doesn’t much seem to care which.

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25 thoughts on “They Want Fat People to Swallow Balloons Now

  1. Oh. My. God. This reminds me horribly of a friend’s dog who accidentally swallowed a whole walnut with its shell and almost died of it because it completely blocked the way through his digestive tract. Poor guy needed emergency surgery and barely made it through.
    And I wonder: Why manipulate an otherwise healthy organ, treating the body’s natural reaction to a thing that doesn’t belong there with more meds (with more side effects)? How can they claim this is about health, when you are actually making someone unhealthier with it? Ugh, I just can’t…

  2. So…clinically induced purging is a thing now? WTF. I’ve read several of your articles / posts and with each one about “treatments” being utilized, I cringe. How does any doctor in their right (and I would hope human and compassionate) mind think these things are HEALTHY?

    1. I was just going to say something similar. That this sounds like medical bulimia! It’s just awful how eating disorders are basically encouraged in fat people. 😦

  3. Just want to say you and other fat-activists have been a real blessing for me. Major thanks.
    I will definitely not be swallowing any of those balloons. However I have just come up with another idea. A slightly different type of balloon which is inflated inside the rectum of anti-fat pundits. So we won’t have to listen to any more of their….

  4. All you have to do is look at the success rate and list of side effects to realize procedures like this aren’t about making fat people thin – they see that as a nice bonus if we’re “lucky” and it happens, but their primary purpose is *punishing us for being fat.*

    1. I think you have hit the nail on the head.

      Six months, and they lost 20-some pounds, which is less than I’ve lost on a plain old diet. And then during the next six months, they regained over 5 of those pounds, so approximately a quarter, which is even faster than the normal regain in the control group. All it does is speed up the yo-yo, while making you even more miserable than a regular diet, during the process.

      And the risk of death and long-term effects. Lots of vomiting, and ulcers, can make your life permanently painful, you know.

      This is horrible.

  5. Follow the money. They don’t care about the side effects. They just want their “cure/remedy” to sound plausible enough so that they can get the publicity and foundation and grant money for it and some nice placements in medical journals. By the time all the side effects and questionable effectiveness of the balloon make their appearances, they (Big Pharma/Big Med) will have taken in millions of dollars, and the ineffectiveness of the method will be noted in some short articles on page 16 of the medical journals in which the long, praiseworthy articles first trumpeted the “cure.”

    We fat people continue to serve as profitable guinea pigs/lab rats.


    Most people (not everyone!) can lose twenty or more pounds in six months by starving without all these horrendous side effects. Almost all will, of course, gain it back plus, balloon or no balloon–but given that so many of these nasty and dangerous side effects seem to be totally normal and expected with this device, and I’m sure having one place is insanely costly–not to mention the cost of emergency surgery for a blocked bowel–I’d rather voluntarily starve.

    Actually I’d rather stay the weight I am now, thanks. I prefer my balloons on a string over my head.

  7. I find it so disturbing that doctors, who you’d really hope hold the concept “first do no harm” close to their hearts would conceive of, and then do this, and then see these numbers and say…..yeah, lets keep on doing this. I feel like there should be some sort of medical ethics putting the brakes on this. But I suppose once fat is pathologized, the door is open for this sort of thing.

    I agree with Ragen that this is slightly better option than stomach amputation, but only in the sense that it is reversible. I deeply hope they aren’t doing this to children.

  8. The so-called weight loss remedies are sounding more like punishment every day. Really, we fat people deserve much better treatment than this. It’s easier for people to come up with dangerous ways to stop being fat than to treat us with respect and acceptance.

  9. Gabrielle said it…”Once fat is pathologized…”
    Truly. When you HAVE something worse than death they will do anything to fix it… When you are something worse than death…. God help us… What the only good fat person is a dead fat person or a formerly not any more fat person… How can we be paranoid enough to protect ourselves from the killer combo of societal hate, medical zealotry and the money.

  10. My first thought was “what the actual f…?!” My second thought is that I wish they spent half as much resources on researching the cause(s) of lipoedema as they do on coming up with stupid shite like this, because that would actually be useful to those of us whose fat is actually physically painful. But I digress.

  11. And they think this is new? A medical study in the Netherlands, about 30 years ago showed that the long term effect of a gastric balloon is the same as that of any other diet: most people regain all the weight that they lost and a large minority regains more than they lost. I don’t have the reference handy, but one of the doctors involved was Mathus Vliegen, from either one of the university hospitals in Amsterdam. Luckily I was not one of the patients.

  12. Wow, have we learned nothing of the dangers of swallowing balloons from smugglers? Sorry, feeling snarky.

  13. Omfg. When is this ever going to stop?! As an ER nurse I’ve seen plenty of people swallow foreign objects and have them surgically removed, because, duh, it’s life threatening. And here we have doctors purposely installing dangerous foreign objects inside us to make us lose weight. I just don’t have words to express the ridiculousness of this.

  14. So the control group lost 7 lbs and this group lost 21. In six months. That’s a pound a week. If you WANTED weight loss, generally Weight Watchers or any other mainstream plan would do it. Without the risks of surgery etc.


    I wonder if the extra loss was due to the side effects of nausea, fullness etc. vs. the actual device itself….I know feeling like I’m gonna hurl generally puts me off my feed.

    This is madness.

  15. I saw this update in the *mainstream* news, so you know it’s bad: since this device was approved, it’s killed nearly everyone who’s gotten it, most of them within days.

    This has inspired the FDA to… not retract their approval… but to launch an investigation and put a new warning label on the device.

    Remember, it’s for our *health!*

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