Gastric Balloon and Medications Led to 19% Drop in Weight

  • A new report finds a gastric balloon in combination with weight loss medication that can help people drop pounds.
  • The Allurion Balloon, which hasn’t been approved in the United States but is being tested in clinical trials, occupies space in the stomach to make people feel full.
  • Liraglutide, a glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, makes people feel less hungry and slows the emptying of the stomach so people feel satisfied longer.

A new report found that combining anti-obesity drugs with a swallowable gastric balloon can amplify weight loss among people with obesity.

The findings, which were presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland, suggest that the method is a safe, effective, and relatively simple way to lose weight.

The Allurion Balloon, which hasn’t been approved in the United States but is being tested in clinical trials, occupies space in the stomach to make people feel less full.

Liraglutide, a glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist, makes people feel less hungry and slows the emptying of the stomach so people feel satisfied longer.

While there are some side effects, like nausea, that can occur, bariatric specialists say this method appears to be an effective way to help certain individuals struggling to lose weight meet their weight loss goals.

“Combining the two modalities seems to increase weight loss in this study and may be effective for a select group of patients,” Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of the MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, told Healthline.

For the trial, the researchers tested the efficacy and safety of combining the Allurion Balloon and liraglutide in 181 individuals.

Dr. Faceat Mehal, Professor of Medicine in Digestive Diseases and Director of the Yale Fatty Liver Disease Program and the Yale Metabolic Health and Weight Loss Program at Yale Medicine, says the Allurion balloon, which is about the size of a pill, is swallowed.

It’s then filled with water once it reaches the stomach and expands to the size of a grapefruit.

It typically stays in the patient’s stomach for 15 to 17 weeks, after which point it is excreted.

All of the patients began taking liraglutide at some point between four and sixteen weeks after the balloon was placed in their stomach.

People started taking liraglutide because they weren’t satisfied with their weight loss or felt as though their balloon-induced satiety had diminished.

All patients were followed for at least six months.

The research team found that the Allurion Balloon is a very effective weight-loss therapy. and, when combined with liraglutide, it can increase weight loss.

After 16 weeks of the balloon, the participants lost, on average, 13 kilograms (about 28 pounds) and 14% of their initial body weight.

They also dropped 74% of their excess weight and lowered their BMI by 4.5kg/m2.

Once the balloon was excreted, the patients were advised to follow the Mediterranean diet for at least six months.

When they finished their course of liraglutide — the average treatment length was four months — participants had lost, on average, 18 kilograms (nearly 40 pounds) and 19% of their initial body weight.

They’d also lost 99% of their excess weight and reduced their BMI by 5.9kg/m2.

Ali says there are some potential side effects to be aware of.

In the trial, no serious adverse events were recorded, however, both methods caused some mild side effects.

The balloon caused nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps and liraglutide was linked to nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and headache.

Four people had to have the balloon removed due to intolerance, gastric dilation, or balloon deflation.

“The most common side effect of each of these is nausea, but this improves with time and rarely requires stopping treatment,” says Mehal.

Dr. Aurora Pryor, the systems director for bariatric surgery at Northwell Health, says she’d expect that combining the two would increase the likelihood of these effects.

“Most patients, however, find the symptoms tolerable and continue medications and the balloons,” Pryor said.

Pryor is thrilled to see new treatment options being explored for obesity.

Obesity is caused by a variety of factors, such as genetic, behavioral, metabolic, and hormonal influences.

“Obesity is a chronic disease, and we still have no perfect solution,” Pryor said.

The management of obesity is undergoing a transformation, says Mehal, as new effective treatments become available.

Due to the mix of contributing factors at play, combining treatments — such as the balloon and a GLP-1 medication — may increase weight loss in some individuals.

“By using all our tools together, we can do a better job of treating the disease,” said Pryor.

The bottom line:

A new report found that combining anti-obesity drugs with a swallowable gastric balloon can amplify weight loss among people with obesity. While there are some side effects, like nausea, that can occur, bariatric specialists say this method appears to be an effective way to help certain individuals struggling to lose weight meet their weight loss goals.

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