New AspireAssist obesity device pumps food out of your stomach: Is it a gimmick?

AspireAssist

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, there are plenty of lose-weight-fast fads and gimmicks out there that make big promises, but rarely deliver results.

Add to that list an unusual new device that pumps undigested food from your stomach and dumps it into a toilet. The AspireAssist weight loss system is offered in North Texas, but Dr. Dirk cautions against it.

Here’s why.

What is the AspireAssist device?

AspireAssist is an external pump that connects to a surgically placed tube, which allows a person to drain a portion of the food in his or her stomach after every meal. The process takes around 10 minutes and removes nearly 30 percent of undigested food from the stomach.

The device is advertised as a less invasive treatment option for people who are obese. It’s designed for obese patients who are 22 and older, and have a body mass index of 35 to 55.

What are the drawbacks of the AspireAssist system?

Because the AspireAssist is a new device — the FDA approved it about a year ago — there isn’t a lot of hard data on its effectiveness. However, it has already gotten a lot of criticism from doctors.

There are doubts about the safety of AspireAssist. Draining 30 percent of your stomach can lead to problems including dehydration, irritation of the stomach lining and a lack of electrolytes.

Others say that, in time, we may see problems with infections, leakage, lack of nutrient absorption and other real problems.

And to top it off, there have already been instances of food clogging the tube, because the pump is unable to break up large foods.

What is Dr. Dirk’s opinion on the AspireAssist?

Besides all the risks associated with the AspireAssist device, Dr. Dirk believes that it is bound to fail because of one key reason: It doesn’t ask the obese person to make changes to his or her lifestyle.

According to Dr. Dirk, lifestyle changes — such as eating a calorie-controlled, high-protein, low-carb diet and getting daily physical exercise — are crucial to losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

The major issue with this device is that “it does not emphasize the need to change nutrition,” Dr. Dirk says. “Instead, what it says is, ‘I can eat whatever I want and just suck the stuff out!’”

Secondly, although the device claims to be less invasive, it is still “a surgical procedure that changes the stomach anatomy,” says Dr. Dirk. “This makes future surgery more difficult, and people will eventually need it when this device fails.”

And then there’s the “gross” factor.

“How cool is this?” says Dr. Dirk. “You get to walk around with a bag and tube sticking out of your stomach, so you can suck out food from your stomach after eating. What an exciting first date!”

Learn about weight loss procedures offered by Dr. Dirk here. 

 


Why does the lap band often involve multiple operations?

lap band revision
For more than a decade, lap band surgeries have been popular with people looking to slim down.

But a new study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has found that people who undergo surgery to have lap bands placed around their stomachs often need one or more new operations to move or remove the device.

Here’s what you need to know about lap bands and Dr. Dirk’s expert opinion of them.

What are lap bands?

Laparoscopic gastric banding (also known as lap bands) work by placing a band around the upper part of the stomach, which a little pouch that holds about 1 ounce of food. The food from the small pouch then empties into the closed-off portion of the stomach and continues the normal digestive process.

The band limits the amount of food you can eat by making you feel full after eating a small amount of food. After the surgery, the band can be adjusted to make food pass more quickly or slowly through your stomach.

What are the findings of the new study?

The University of Michigan study found that one in five people who had a lap band procedure needed more surgery within five years of the procedure.

Lap bands can cause a variety of complications. They can erode into the stomach or slip down and cause a blockage. Problems can also happen if the stomach pouch gets bigger.

The study followed more than 25,000 people with lap bands and found that 18.5 percent of patients (4,636 patients) needed at least one more surgery to fix problems.

Those 4,636 patients required more than 17,500 surgeries for their lap bands. That’s an average of nearly four additional surgeries per patient!

Doctors have known about these risks for a few years, which is why lap bands have grown less and less popular in recent years.

What is Dr. Dirk’s professional opinion of lap bands?

“This study shows what we have known for almost 10 years,” Dr. Dirk says. “The adjustable gastric band is not the fantastic solution everyone thought it was going to be.”

According to Dr. Dirk, the fact that lap bands can have as high as an 80 percent failure rate, plus the new data about multiple follow-up operations, means that lap bands are a not a good idea.

“Lap bands involve placing an artificial device right next to the stomach,” says Dr. Dirk. “The stomach moves hundreds of times a day, so the device moves with it. Add to that coughing, sneezing, lifting and getting in and out of the car, and the band is constantly moving about.”

That’s where the problem happens. Bands end up slipping, and this is the most common cause of re-operation.

While less invasive procedures like this may seem like a good idea, Dr. Dirk says the lap band has had a long track record of failure.

“Don’t be swayed by gimmicks or fancy advertising promising a ‘less invasive’ option,” says Dr. Dirk. “In the long run, they don’t work.”

Instead, he recommends making real lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and exercising every day. If these solutions don’t help, weight loss surgery — not the lap band — can be an effective solution.

 


The dangers of opioid use after surgery

dangers of opioid use after surgery

The American opioid epidemic is a very serious problem. About 2.1 million Americans suffer from substance abuse related to prescription opioid pain relievers.

A new University of Michigan Medical School study has even found that people who have minor surgery are nearly as likely to abuse opioid drugs as people who undergo major operations.

The study finds that 5.9 percent of people who undergo minor procedures develop a chronic opioid habit in the three to six months after the procedure. For people who’ve had a major operation, that figure is 6.5 percent.

These numbers show that the type of surgery a person has doesn’t have much of an effect on the likelihood that they will develop a chronic opioid use problem.

In fact, patients continue to use opioids after their surgery for reasons other than the pain from the surgery, according to one of study authors.

A better predictor of a person’s risk for chronic opioid use after having surgery is their prior history of chronic pain. Also, if a person has a history of substance abuse, such as with alcohol or tobacco, he or she is more likely to become a regular user of opioid drugs after surgery.

So what does this mean for your weight loss surgery? 

Dr. Dirk understands the risk of opioid addiction. He rarely prescribes opioids after operations, and he watches his patients carefully after their weight loss procedures.

During and after surgery, Dr. Dirk uses various medications to provide pain relief for his patients. Research shows that this approach reduces pain and makes the need for opioids less necessary.

While opioids have an important role to play for surgery patients, it’s very important to make sure that patients don’t become dependent on these drugs. If you’re worried about the risk of opioid use during or after your weight loss surgery, Dr. Dirk is here to help. Contact his office today to schedule a consultation.

 


The alarming health effects of drinking soda

health effects of drinking soda

Let’s be honest: Few things are as refreshing as a nice, cold soda. But while drinking the occasional soda is OK, it’s not healthy to make fizzy, sweetened beverages a regular part of your diet — and not just because it can add inches to your waistline. Drinking soda can also cause a wide range of health problems in addition to obesity.

Soda can contribute to type-2 diabetes

There is strong evidence that shows a connection between regular soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.

People who consume soda regularly (one or two cans per day or more) have a 26 percent increased risk of developing the disease than people who rarely drink soda.

A study of 90,000 women that took place over eight years found that women who reported consuming at least one serving of a sugar-sweetened drink per day were twice as likely to have developed type-2 diabetes.

Soda can increase your risk of heart disease

Regularly drinking sugary drinks also has a negative impact on your heart health.

A study conducted over 20 years found that men who consumed a can of soda per day had a 20 percent higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than men who rarely consumed soda. Studies show the same link between soda and heart disease in women.

In fact, in the same study of 90,000 women mentioned above, women who drank more than two servings of a sugary drink per day had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.

Researchers found that even when the women ate an otherwise healthy diet or maintained a healthy weight, the risk of heart disease lowered only slightly. In other words, soda is harmful to your health even if you’re not overweight and you eat a healthy diet.

Experts believe that soda’s high sugar content affects blood glucose, cholesterol, inflammation and metabolism, all of which can have an effect on your heart health.

Soda is bad for your bones

You wouldn’t think that drinking soda has an impact on your bones, but it does affect bone health, especially in young people. Soda contains high levels of phosphate. If you take in more phosphate than calcium, your bones deteriorate.

In fact, consuming soda tends to decrease your calcium, because you’re then less likely to drink milk, a vital source of calcium.

Soda is linked to obesity

Finally (and most obviously), regularly drinking soda is linked to weight gain. People who consume soda don’t feel as full as if they had consumed the same calories from solid food. As a result, they eat, which brings its own calorie load.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, weight gain is a simple matter of calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn in a day, you’re bound to pile on the pounds.

“Soda has no nutritional value whatsoever and definitely has no place in a nutrition plan for healthy living or weight loss,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even diet sodas have no advantage.”

To avoid the many negative health consequences of drinking soda, it’s best to cut soda and other sugary drinks out of your diet. Studies show that reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from your diet can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight.

So next time you get a hankering for a fizzy drink, reach for a glass of sparkling water instead.


Parents can’t recognize childhood obesity for these reasons

childhood obesityWeight loss and obesity can be tough subjects to approach, since health and body image can carry significant emotional baggage for many of us. This is especially true when it comes to parents of obese children.

According to a recent study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the UCL Institute of Child Health, the vast majority of parents underestimate the extent of their child’s obesity and are unable to recognize the need for intervention. Because parents are so likely to misperceive the weight of their children, it’s important to safeguard against these tendencies with an honest assessment of your child’s health.

“This is a very difficult and highly emotional topic for parents to face, much less discuss with a health care professional,” says Dr. Dirk. Still, he urges parents to address such issues objectively.

“When it comes to your child’s current and future health, it is important to put aside feelings and face facts. Parents may think their child’s obesity is a personal failure. It is best to approach the situation as a concerned parent providing the best care for their child.”

While weight loss isn’t all about numbers, the figures published in this study don’t lie. About one-third of parents featured in the study underestimated their children’s body mass index (BMI) in a simple classification that categorized kids as underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese. While a total of 369 children studied were properly classified as obese, only four parents were able to recognize their own kids as such.

The problem, Dr. Dirk explains, is that childhood obesity often sets kids up for a lifetime of weight-loss and weight-related health struggles.

“Obese children go on to become obese teenagers and then become obese adults,” Dr. Dirk says. “Obesity in teenage years threatens obese adults with major medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea,” he cautions.

Obesity increases emotional and psychological risks, as well. “We can not ignore the difficulties of unkind social interactions between teenagers,” Dr. Dirk says. “It is well known that obese teenagers can be isolated and bullied to the point of exclusion.”

So what can we do to combat childhood obesity? First, parents must remember that obesity is a treatable condition and by no means represents a failure on their part.

“It is very important is for the parents to stay involved and view obesity as a medical condition that must be treated,” Dallas Bariatric Surgeon, Dr. Dirk, advises.

That means starting by taking the child to a doctor for a thorough physical examination and, possibly, blood tests and X-rays. Then the doctor will make recommendations, which may include nutrition counseling with a dietitian, therapy sessions with a nutrition counselor and possibly a referral to a specialist.

While broaching the subject of child obesity can seem daunting, the health benefits and overall improvement in quality of life for children struggling with weight-related issues are well worth the tough discussion. After all, kids should be kids—healthy and free to participate fully in the activities they love.


New study shows lack of fitness connected to risk of heart failure

heart failure

According to a new study from UT Southwestern, reduced cardio-respiratory fitness in individuals with high body-mass index (BMI) is responsible for heart failure.

For years, we have known that individuals who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for health problems. “Morbid obesity is a medical condition that affects the entire body,” says Dr. Dirk. One of the problems obesity can cause is heart disease.

Now, we have a better understanding of the link between a high BMI and heart trouble. This study found that a low level of fitness — not obesity itself — is the direct cause of heart failure.

In the study, which included 20,000 individuals, doctors found that low cardio-respiratory fitness (meaning the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system) accounted for 47 percent of the risk of heart-failure hospitalization associated with increased BMI.

The study also found that once low cardio-respiratory fitness is accounted for, changes in BMI do not have a significant association with heart failure risk.

In other words, because low cardio-respiratory fitness (not high BMI) is the direct cause of heart problems, individuals can reduce their risk of heart problems by getting more physically fit. If they do that, changes in BMI (a.k.a. losing weight) have minimal effect on the risk of heart problems.

Because of this finding, the doctors conclude that the “priority should be placed on improving cardio-respiratory fitness over decreasing BMI.”

However, as we’ve discussed on this blog many times, fitness often goes hand in hand with weight. Overweight and obese individuals tend to have less energy, making it harder to do regular physical exercise. Without regular exercise, overall cardio-respiratory fitness declines. And, as the study shows, low cardio-respiratory fitness results in increased risk for heart failure.

Dr. Dirk recommends regular physical activity — along with a low-carb, high-protein diet — for losing weight and keeping it off. However, losing weight and keeping it off also lends itself to regular physical activity, because the body is in better shape to handle the stress of exercise.

It’s important to remember that overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk for other health problems in addition to heart disease.

“Obesity is a total body condition,” says Dr. Dirk. “Beyond heart failure, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, joint pain and even cancer.”

Because high BMI is associated with a range of health problems, it’s important to address the root of the problem by losing weight with a healthy diet, regular exercise and, if needed, additional help through weight loss surgery.

 


The Dangers of Weight-Loss Supplements

Weight-Loss Supplements

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably been tempted by weight-loss supplements. These products claim to help you shed pounds faster, but are they too good to be true?

In a word, yes. Weight-loss supplements are largely ineffective and can even be dangerous.

At best, weight-loss pills and supplements deliver very modest results only to some people.

The reality is that there is no get-thin-quick solution. If your goal is to lose weight, “miracle” weight-loss pills and supplements simply won’t deliver.

There are a variety of weight-loss pills and supplements, including prescription and nonprescription drugs, herbal medicines and other dietary supplements.

Studies of prescription medicines have shown that they produce, at best, very little weight loss in only some people. Plus, those limited benefits only come to those who have already made appropriate lifestyle changes.

Even if a pill or supplement is advertised as “clinically proven,” it doesn’t mean that the size, method and duration of the clinical trial was enough to show sufficient evidence of weight loss. For example, one “clinically proven” pill only led to a loss of 3 pounds over an eight-week period.

At worst, weight-loss pills and supplements can be very dangerous and even lethal.

The modest benefits that some people may enjoy from weight-loss supplements are nothing compared to the very real damage they can do to your health.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), weight-loss supplements can cause serious harm. The agency has identified hundreds of products advertised as “dietary supplements” that contain:

  • Hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs
  • Unsafe ingredients found in drugs that have been removed from the market
  • Compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans

For these reasons, weight-loss supplements have been known to cause serious health problems.

For example, a prescription weight-loss drug called Meridia was withdrawn from the market after it was found that it contained an ingredient called sibutramine that caused heart attacks and strokes.

Even though Meridia was withdrawn, sibutramine was identified in another weight-loss pill, Slimming Beauty Bitter Orange Slimming Capsules, which was marketed as “100 percent herbal” and safe for use by children as young as 2.

Not only are there tainted pills and supplements, but there are also products that avoid FDA regulation altogether because dietary supplement producers do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products.

Given the uncertainty and high risk surrounding weight-loss supplements, in addition to the fact that they produce only small benefits in some users, Dr. Dirk strongly recommends avoiding them.

The only safe, effective regimen for weight loss  

Losing weight and getting healthy is a long road that requires discipline, determination and patience. If you want to be successful in your weight loss journey, avoid fads and put in the hard work it takes to lose weight and get healthy.

According to Dr. Dirk, the most reliable and safe way to lose weight is to commit to a good diet and regular exercise. That means consuming a low-carb, high-protein diet made up of small meals and committing to at least one hour of aerobic activity per day.

It’s natural to want a quick solution to weight loss. Unfortunately, no safe or effective “quick” solution exists. The surest and healthiest way to lose weight is to commit to a new lifestyle that emphasizes a sensible diet and regular exercise.


The FDA’s New Gastric Balloon Warning: What Does It Mean?

Gastric Balloon Warning

While there are many different procedures and treatments for obesity, some can less safe and effective than others. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning about fluid-filled gastric balloon treatments.

What are intragastric balloons?

Intragastric balloons are a relatively new weight loss procedure. A balloon or balloons are placed in an overweight or obese patient’s stomach in order to take up stomach space. The balloon limits how much a patient can eat and helps them feel fuller faster.

There are two types of intragastric balloons: fluid-filled balloons and air-filled balloons.

What does the FDA warning say?

In February 2017, the FDA issued a warning about the Orbera and ReShape fluid-filled intragastric balloon systems. Based on multiple incidents, the FDA reported two problems associated with fluid-filled intragastric balloons.

The first problem involves intragastric balloons over-inflating with air or with more fluid while in a patient’s stomach, requiring early removal of the balloon system.

The second problem is the development of acute pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This problem also requires premature removal of the device.

What are Dr. Dirk’s thoughts?

According to Dr. Dirk, The FDA approves a medical device after a sample group of patients are observed for a period of time only to determine whether the device is safe.

FDA approval is based largely on the statistical probability of safety, not an absolute certainty. In other words, the FDA essentially makes an educated guess about safety of a treatment.

But despite the best efforts of regulators like the FDA, medical science takes time and many cases in order to discover what problems can crop up.

“The takeaway message here is is that the balloon is not a cure-all,” Dr. Dirk says. “Like any other medical device placed in the human body, it must be watched not only by the patient, but also by the doctors who placed the device in the patient.”

For more information about the intragastric balloon or other weight loss procedures offered by Dr. Dirk, schedule a consultation or call us to learn more 214-DRDIRK-1.


Apple Cider Vinegar Promotes Weight Loss: Fact or Fiction?

apple cider vinegar

So-called health experts love to tout the health benefits of certain “superfoods” like apple cider vinegar. While many of these foods can indeed be nutritious, these broad health claims are often exaggerated or completely unsupported by science.

In recent years, apple cider vinegar fans have claimed that the superfood can boost weight loss efforts.

But is the link between this so-called superfood and weight loss a verifiable fact or just a myth? Here are the facts:

What’s the hype around apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is made from fermented apple sugars. For decades, people have proclaimed that apple cider vinegar is a magic elixir with a range of health benefits. Those supposed health benefits include:

  • It helps keep blood sugar under control, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
  • It supports good digestion and an improved immune system.
  • It promotes weight loss.

Are the health benefits of apple cider vinegar real or just a myth?

Studies show that, of the purported health benefits of apple cider vinegar, only some are true. Let’s look at each claim one by one.

Consuming apple cider vinegar may help keep blood sugar under control.

There is substantial evidence that apple cider vinegar has a positive effect on regulating blood sugar. According to Carol S. Johnston, associate director of the nutrition program at Arizona State University, vinegar appears to inhibit the enzyme that aids in the digestion of starch. Because less starch is digested, less of the starch sugars make it into the blood.

In the long run, keeping blood sugar in check can help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

It’s important to note that all vinegar — not just apple cider vinegar — produces this blood sugar effect. That’s because all vinegar contains acetic acid, the ingredient that inhibits starch digestion.

Apple cider vinegar may aid digestion.

Since apple cider vinegar is derived from fermented apple juice, it can contain probiotics, like many other fermented foods. Probiotics are bacteria that help keep the stomach and digestive system healthy.

The probiotics are contained in the “mother,” or the cobwebby strands that are found in raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Pasteurized apple cider vinegar is clear because the pasteurization process removes the “mother,” which takes away the probiotic benefit.

Still, while raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar may offer probiotic benefits, this has not been verified by research.

Apple cider vinegar — like all vinegar — may have a prebiotic effect, however. While “probiotic” refers to live bacteria, “prebiotic” refers to a type of plant fiber that nourishes the beneficial bacteria already living in the large bowel and colon. The healthier the good bacteria, the more robust your digestive system.

Does apple cider vinegar promote weight loss?

Unlike the other benefits of apple cider vinegar, the purported weight loss benefit is a myth.

There is simply no science to back up the claim that apple cider vinegar triggers a metabolic process that results in weight loss, according to Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness.

Other experts share this conclusion. Carol S. Johnston, the Arizona State University nutrition specialist, agrees: “Vinegar is not a magic bullet for weight loss.”

How to consume apple cider vinegar

If you want to consume apple cider vinegar for its blood sugar benefits, it is important to consume it correctly.

Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of water and drink it right before eating, once or twice a day.

But don’t overdo it. Consuming too much apple cider vinegar can have adverse health consequences. Because of the acidity of apple cider vinegar, overconsumption can cause stomach irritation, wear away at your tooth enamel and harm your esophagus.

What is an effective weight loss program?

Health and wellness specialists and doctors — including Dr. Dirk — agree that the most effective weight loss program doesn’t rely on a single superfood, but a comprehensive program of diet and exercise.

Fad diets, superfood and lose-weight-fast regimens are often ineffective and can even be detrimental to your health. Healthy and sustainable weight loss depends upon eating a healthy and balanced diet and incorporating calorie- and fat-burning workouts into your lifestyle.

So what are the real superfoods?

“Real superfoods are any type of food made by nature,” Dr. Dirk says. “Eating a balanced diet of small, frequent meals with minimal amounts of processed foods helps make you super-healthy.”

To learn more about Dr. Dirk’s nutrition recommendations, set up a consultation today.


Obesity Putting a Strain on Emergency and Medical Equipment

obesity and medical equipment

When it comes to the health problems obesity creates, diabetes and heart disease top the list. But what happens when the patient is so obese, they have trouble even getting into a doctor’s office to be diagnosed? Obesity is taking a toll on not only doctors and paramedics, but their medical equipment, as well.

A recent study in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley area by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that patients calling 911 are more likely to be obese now than ever before. The counties in the study each saw a 5 to 10 percent increase in obese callers.

Once paramedics arrive to assess the situation, it can be a daunting task. Not only do they have to be able to physically carry the patient, but they often use devices that may not work on obese patients.

“Obesity interferes with an obese person’s ability to receive medical care, even emergency medical care,” Dr. Dirk says. “Even with attention to the specific needs of the increasing weight of Americans, a lot of medical equipment cannot support obese patients.”

The obesity epidemic has made medical professionals rethink their equipment. A traditional ambulance gurney can only support 330 pounds, and operating room tables often only hold 500 pounds.

Many paramedic organizations, doctors’ offices and even hospitals have had to invest in special stretchers, surgical tables or even CAT scan machines because the standard versions cannot support the weight of the many obese patients.

“When patients exceed the limits of hospital or emergency responder equipment, that means they may not be able to receive life-saving care,” Dr. Dirk says.

Whether you’re on the brink of calling 911 or not, it’s important to consider the many impacts your weight can have on your health. If it’s time for you to take the next step toward a healthy weight and you don’t know where to start, contact Dr. Dirk today.