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FDA's advisory panel has recently given positive feedback on a new implantable device that is designed to reduce appetite and promote weight loss in severely obese individuals. Called VBLOC therapy, it involves using a safe pacemaker-like device.

Obesity, which affects more than one-third of the US population, is now considered as a chronic disease, and not just an overweight problem. The number of obese individuals in other industrialized nations is also rapidly increasing, making scientists and doctors search for more ways to solve the problem. Although most doctors would advise their overweight patients to lose weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet with fewer calories and fat, exercising more, and improving their lifestyles, many obese individuals find it difficult to achieve these goals through these conservative methods alone. Furthermore, those who have a severe obesity problem or those who are moderately obese but are suffering from obesity-related medical problems may need more aggressive methods to lose excess weight more efficiently.

Solutions for Morbid Obesity

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies obesity into three grades, according to body mass index (BMI). BMI is a rough measure of body fat based on the ratio of one's height to his/her weight. A person who has a normal weight-to-height proportion has a BMI between 20-25 kg/m2. People who have a BMI of up to 29.9 are classified as overweight, and those who have BMI values above that are obese. However, with a BMI of more than 40, one would be considered morbidly (or severely) obese.

Morbid obesity carries with it a high risk of developing various types of serious medical conditions.

Even moderately obese and some overweight people with genetic tendencies or poor lifestyle habits are at risk for these diseases, which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, cancer, and more. Unfortunately, even the best weight loss programs only work for a few obese people. It is estimated that less than 5% of obese individuals achieve long-term success. The National Institutes of Health also reports that most (> 90%) participants of weight loss programs regain their weight within a year. Many have a tendency to move from diet to diet ("yo-yo" dieting) and subject their bodies to severe cycles of weight loss and weight gain. Weight-loss medications to reduce appetite and lower cholesterol levels are prescribed by some practitioners, but these may have limited use, especially when side effects occur. Some doctors recommend weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) especially for the morbidly obese, and although effective for some, other patients cannot tolerate such as procedure, which also carries some risks to their life.

New Treatment Option for Morbid Obesity

Scientists have recently introduced a new option for treating morbid obesity that cannot be improved by other weight-loss methods. 

Called VBLOC (vagal blocking therapy), an implantable pacemaker-like device known as the Maestro® Rechargeable System, is used to control one's hunger and feeling of fullness without altering one's diet or lifestyle.

It works by blocking nerve impulses from the brain to the stomach through the vagus nerve, which regulates many functions of the digestive system.

In this treatment method, a minimally invasive procedure that carries fewer risks is involved, since the device is inserted beneath the skin near the stomach below the ribs. Doctors can customize its settings to suit the individual's needs in controlling his feelings of hunger and fullness. These settings can be adjusted, and the device may be deactivated and reactivated if desired, or removed if needed.

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