Ask Dr. Nandi: Weight loss balloons now linked to 12 deaths

(WXYZ) - More people have died due to a procedure to help with weight loss. The 5 new deaths have raised the death toll to 12 worldwide since they were approved in 2015.

The intragastric balloon systems are an FDA approved treatment for obesity.

What happens is a balloon is placed in the stomach through the mouth, which is then filled with a saline solution. It helps obese people lose weight by restricting how much they can eat and making them feel full faster.  

The balloon is removed six months later. But this procedure comes with a serious risk.  

It’s called a gastric perforation or hole in the stomach wall. And that’s what happened in four of the new deaths.  

Now the FDA still believes these weight loss balloons are "an appropriate treatment option" for some patients.  

Good candidates are those who have a body mass index between 30 and 40, are willing to commit to a healthy lifestyle change, and haven’t had previous stomach or esophageal surgery.

But before considering this medical intervention, it’s important that you try to lose weight through diet and exercise so here are my prescriptions:

Learn about nutrition and start making changes to the food you eat. Focus on nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein.

Avoid falling into the fad diet trap. They typically do not work long-term and many people gain the weight back and more. 

Increase your physical activity. Try to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day – but if you’ve been a couch potato then I suggest you start off small and build up over time. 

Develop a good support system. It’s important to have positive loved ones supporting and celebrating your new healthy lifestyle.

Now if you think you’re a good candidate for intragastric balloons, be sure to discuss this option thoroughly with your doctor.  

There are other known complications you need to consider and there’s the possibility you might not lose significant weight or end up regaining it all back.  

Making permanent healthy lifestyle changes is key – so you might as well get started now by following my prescriptions.

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