Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stomach This

In case y'all missed it, the FDA recently approved a medical device that, like previous devices (the ear staple, the copper bracelet, the lap band) is supposed to help you lose weight. This sucker is by Entero and it's called the VBLOC or vagal blocking device.  The idea, as I understand it, is that you have this thing installed inside of your abdomen and it then emits a signal that is supposed to confuse your vagus nerve.  (Hence the term vagal.  That sounded mildly dirty when I read it the first time.)  The electric signal will then temporarily disrupt the nerve conductions from the stomach to the brain and vice versa, which will then make you not hungry.  Supposedly, if you are not hungry, you will not eat, and therefore will lose weight.

HA HA HA HA HA HA--Sorry, just trying to stop laughing over here.  Where in the everloving fuck did these scientists get the idea that fat people eat because they are hungry?  I mean, I realize I can't speak for all fat people, but me, and the ones I know, eat because we're anxious.  Because we're sad.  Because we're happy (glass of champagne and some chocolates).  We eat pretty much for any reason at all, or no reason at all, and we eat more than we should.  Being hungry has nothing to do with it.

Now, before you jump all over me about personal responsibility and willpower and blah blah blah, I'd like to suggest that it's not only fat people who eat when they're not hungry.  Most of us do.  We are a country, and perhaps a species, of celebratory and emotional eaters.  In fact, when was the last time you were hungry?  Not just feeling like it was time for a meal but stomach-growly, headache-pending, ready-to-eat-a-live-chicken hungry?  I'd venture to say never.  Or at least not since you were a teenager (kids inhale food between twelve and nineteen so they can fuel those growth spurts and the sudden development of gonads).  In fact, I'd venture to say most of us are never hungry.  Why should we be?  Most of us eat three times a day, or at least every three or four hours.  That's really not enough time to get very hungry.

Which is why I predict that this new VBLOC is dead in the water.  We're used to eating on a regular schedule, not when we're hungry.  It's also not going to help that the device is only "recommended" for patients over 18 who have a BMI of 35 to 45 and an obesity-related illness (though, as fat people can tell you, if you're overweight, your doctor will tell you that any illness is a weight-related illness.  Sore throat?  It's because you're fat.  Bad knees?  It's because you're fat.  Terminal cancer?  It's because you're fat, but don't worry, you'll lose lots of weight on your way out the door.)  It also doesn't help that you have to have two surgeries to install this thing; one to put the "pulse generator" in your chest and another to stick the business end up against the vagus nerve near your stomach.

But here's the kicker; it doesn't actually work.  The manufacturer had a double-blind study (what if they threw a double-blind study and nobody showed up?) in which all the participants lost weight.  Everybody had the device implanted, but in about half, it wasn't turned on.  The people with the devices turned on lost a whopping 8.5% more weight than the people who didn't have the devices turned on.  Sounds impressive, right?  Sure, except we're talking an average of 16 pounds lost for the people with the device turned off, and 24 pounds lost for people with the devices turned on. That's a difference of eight pounds.  Eight pounds for two major surgeries, risk of infection, a hospital stay and a weird foreign object permanently lodged in your chest and stomach.  Eight pounds isn't even statistically significant, folks.  And here's the thing, the participants in the survey all lost weight because they were staying at a hospital and doing a diet and exercise program.  Eat less food and exercise more and you are guaranteed to lose weight.  However, only about 4% keep it off for more than a year.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, 1 in 6 Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from.  In Texas, the ratio's more like one in 5.  They're calling it "food insecurity" now, which I guess sounds better than "hunger."  It means there aren't enough groceries to last the month.  That the last few days before the paycheck, you might be having dinner with the homeless or not having it at all.  The technical definition of "food insecurity" is "the condition of being unable to provide adequate food for a healthy life for all members of a household due to lack of money or other resources," but what it basically amounts to is hunger.  And let's not forget that around the world every day, 21,000 people die of hunger or hunger-related illnesses every day.  Every day. That's one every four seconds.  That's one town the size of Minot, North Dakota, per day.  Almost eight million people a year.  But hey, the Pope still thinks that people shouldn't use birth control.

Anybody want to invent a medical device that can cure food insecurity?  Like maybe taking the money this stupid thing must have cost to develop and market and, I dunno, feeding India for a year or something?  Just asking.  Y'all have a nice day, now.

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