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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Shock therapy for obese
The device reduces how much food people can eat
The device reduces how much food people can eat
Electric shock is the latest method of curbing hunger and helping people lose weight.

An implantable gastric stimulator device slows down peristalsis - the process of muscle contractions which forces food along the digestive tract.

This means a person does not feel hungry again as quickly as they normally would.

Training people to eat smaller quantities is an important part of helping the obese lose weight.


Anything which could help patients with the minimum of disruption to their lives is to be welcomed

Dr Ian Campbell, National Obesity Forum
In the UK, 20% of adults are classified as obese.

The electric shock treatment is an alternative to stomach stapling, where the stomach or intestines are sewed or stapled together.

The idea was originally developed by Italian doctor Valerio Cigaina, but it is being marketed by the US company Transneuronix, based in New Jersey.

It is available in Europe and its makers hope to find a distributor in the UK.

The device is implanted near nerves in the stomach wall.

It transmits a small 10-milliampere current 12 times a minute for two seconds a time.

Reduced food

In addition to slowing down peristalsis, the electric shock makes the sphincters at the entrance and exit of the stomach contract, restricting the amount of food which can pass through.

It can be left on all the time or triggered when the person feels the urge to eat too much.

In tests carried out by Transneuronix, patients lost around 25% of their excess body weight over the course of a two year study.

Steve Adler, executive vice-president at the company, told BBC News Online: "This gives a very low-risk, minimally invasive option for patients that are considering the more invasive treatments such as stomach stapling or gastric-bypass surgery."

Great problem

Dr Ian Campbell, chair of the UK National Obesity Forum, said the device would probably not be useful for the average overweight person, but could help the very obese.

He said: "The problem of obesity is too great to dismiss ideas out of hand.

"I'm not immediately struck by it, but I would like to see more detail.

"But anything which could help patients with the minimum of disruption to their lives is to be welcomed."

The device is featured in New Scientist magazine.

See also:

19 Jul 02 | Health
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24 May 01 | Health
08 Jul 01 | Health
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