More than one-third of Americans are obese, putting themselves at risk for heart disease, stroke, type-two diabetes and certain cancers.
When diet and exercise don't work, many turn to surgery. But now, there’s a new therapy that may work just as well for some.
Kari Adams has been overweight most of her life. At her highest, she weighed 220 pounds.
"I have tried Weight Watchers. I have tried South Beach. I have tried Atkins," Adams said.
But nothing worked. So, Adams enrolled in a clinical trial to test a new and very radical weight loss method. It's called aspiration therapy.
"If we can put food into the stomach, can we also take food out of the stomach?" said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, assistant professor of medicine, division of gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis.
Patients first have a skin port placed in their abdomen. After a meal, they connect a tube to the port and into the stomach. When they turn on the valve, water is infused, and food travels from the stomach to the outside of the body.
"The food just is emptied out into the toilet," Sullivan said.
The device allows users to remove 30 percent of the food from the stomach before it's absorbed. In a clinical trial, patients lost an average of 46 pounds during the first year using the therapy.
Adams went from 220 pounds to 145 pounds after five years of aspiration therapy, and she’s more active than ever.
"The main thing is, I’ve started running, and I did two half-marathons so far," Adams explained
Now, nothing holds her back.
Patients have to aspirate about 20 minutes after a meal, and the process takes about 20 minutes, so they do have to plan ahead. Doctors also monitor patient's nutrient intake and can provide them with special supplements, if needed.