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Is an Intragastric Balloon Effective for Adolescent Obesity?

In a recent study, researchers in Brazil examined the safety and effectiveness of an intragastric balloon in severely obese female adolescents.

The prevalence of childhood obesity is growing worldwide. Often, lifestyle changes during this stage of life are not long-lasting, and most of the weight lost is regained within the first five years. The safe, minimally invasive intragastric balloon has been used in obese adults to aid with weight loss (by reducing the volume of the stomach, making the patient feel full faster) and has been shown to also reduce obesity-related morbidities. With little information on the intervention in adolescents, a study published in Nutrire examined its safety and efficacy in female adolescents.

In Santo Andre, Brazil, 10 severely obese females ranging from 12 to 18 years old were chosen to participate in the study. To be included, the participants had to have had their first menstrual period at least two years prior to the study and had stable or increased body mass indices (BMIs) following a year of conventional interventions (e.g. exercise, dietary changes). They could not have diabetes, be obese due to hormones or genetics, or have had upper gastrointestinal issues or surgeries. Prior to the trial, researchers took body size measures and blood samples for baseline values. They then took measurements every week for the first two months, every 15 days for the next two months and only once in months five and six.

For the intervention, medical professionals inserted the intragastric balloon through the esophagus into the stomach and filled it with 400 mL of a saline and 1% methylene blue solution. Five participants experienced nausea and two vomited during the first week of the intervention. Half of all participants had pain following the procedure that was resolved with medication and none had difficulties swallowing.

The results showed that the procedure was effective. Weight and BMI among participants reduced by an average of 4.29 kg/m2 and 12.9 kg respectively, with the largest reductions in first week (an average of 6.46 kg for BMI and 1.74kg/m2 for weight). On average, the waist-to-height ratio reduced by 0.07 and insulin reduced by 9.0 U/ml.

Overall the results indicate that, as with adults, intragastric balloons may be a safe, effective intervention to curb severe obesity in adolescents. It’s important to note, however, that the small sample size and lack of information on dietary behaviours of the participants are limitations of the study. As such, any future studies should assess participants over longer periods of time, as well as monitor them after the intragastric balloon is removed.

Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

Reference: Pezzo, C.T., de Souza, T.F., Fenero, V., Suano-Souza, F.I., Grecco, E., and Sarni, R.O.S.  (2017). Efficacy and safety of intragastric balloon in the treatment of obesity in adolescent females. Nutrire, 42(26). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41110-017-0052-z

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