It might sound bonkers, but swallowing a pill containing an deflated balloon could help you lose weight.
Wannabe slimmers who have tried the radical procedure – now available on the NHS as part of a limited launch – have lost more than two stone.
Inside the 3cm-long and 2cm-wide capsule sits a collapsed balloon. Attached to that is a thin tube.
Once doctors have checked that it’s sat in the correct place in the stomach via an X-ray, they feed 550ml of saline through the tube to fill the balloon.
When the balloon is full, the connection valve automatically seals itself and the tube is removed.
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Inside the 3cm-long and 2cm-wide capsule sits a collapsed balloon. Attached to that is a thin tube, which doctors feed 550ml saline through to fill the balloon. An X-ray is done to confirm it is correctly sat in the stomach. When the balloon is full, the connection valve automatically seals itself. A second x-ray confirms it is still sat correctly before the tube is then removed
The idea is that the balloon makes it impossible to eat much, as your stomach feels permanently full.
It stays in place for four months. After that, the small round valve which self-sealed dissolves and the balloon empties.
The body naturally passes both through the gastrointestinal tract.
Emanuela Torrielli, from Surbiton in south west London, underwent the 15-minute treatment privately in the city earlier this month, in an attempt to lose weight and keep it off.
With a BMI of 30 (at 13st 3lbs and 5ft 5in tall), the 40-year-old is considered obese.
The swallowable balloon is currently available privately to those with a BMI over 27, provided they are willing to pay in the region of £4,000.
She told the Mail: ‘When I try a diet, it works for a little bit – I lost 10kg [1st 8 b] once. But then I put the weight back on, and that gets to you.
‘It makes you feel like a failure.’
Minutes after swallowing the capsule, Emanuela claimed that she felt no different — although she acknowledged that it ‘didn’t feel nice’ when the tube passed through her throat.
Despite having skipped lunch, she revealed it felt as if she had ‘eaten one of my big lasagnes’. Within half an hour she drove home with no signs of nausea.
Charley Payne, meanwhile, had the balloon fitted in January 2023 after trying ‘every diet under the sun’.
At the time, the now 26-year-old from Milton Keynes weighed 13st 12lb (88kg), which at 5ft 1in tall gave her a BMI of 36 and saw her classed as obese.
In the year since, she has lost more than two stone, weighing 11st (70kg), placing her as overweight.
Charley admitted to that the Mail that she felt ‘a bit ropey’ and ‘nauseous’ when she travelled home an hour after undergoing the treatment.
She said: ‘Having it done towards the end of the day was a good move as I just went to bed and slept through the worst of it.
‘After that each day I felt a little better. I spent the first two days just on fluids, and then two days on softer foods such as soup or porridge and then on day five I was back on solid food.
‘I found it crazy how quickly I felt full when I was eating. I didn’t change my diet as I didn’t eat unhealthily – I just ate less – a lot less.’
She added ‘I had to swap from a normal sized plate to a smaller one to remind myself not to put too much food on.’
Allurion, the company behind the pill, said it has been in talks with NHS trusts about rolling out the treatment after it was given the seal of approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), in 2020.
Emanuela Torrielli (pictured), from Surbiton in South-West London , underwent the 15-minute treatment privately in the city earlier this month, in an attempt to lose weight and keep it off. With a BMI of 30, the 40-year-old is considered obese. The swallowable balloon is currently available privately to those with a BMI over 27
Charley Payne, meanwhile, had the balloon fitted in January 2023 after trying ‘every diet under the sun’. At the time, the now 26-year-old from Milton Keynes weighed 13 st 12 (88kg), which at 5’1 tall gave her a BMI of 36 (pictured) and classing her as obese
In a year she has lost more than two stone, weighing 11st (70kg), placing her as overweight. She admitted to feeling ‘a bit ropey’ and ‘nauseous’ as she travelled home an hour after undergoing the treatment
Now, the first two NHS patients have been treated at Musgrove Park Hospital in Somerset.
It is being treated by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust as a research project as a pre-intervention to prepare people for gastric bypass surgery.
There are currently no plans for a wider NHS roll-out, officials said today.
Under NICE guidance, the swallowable gastric balloon capsule is intended only for those ‘who need to lose weight in the short term for medical reasons’.
To date, evidence on its efficacy is still ‘inadequate in quantity and quality’.
Trials have shown the treatment to be particularly effective in patients with a higher body mass index (BMI).
Patients with a starting BMI of 35-40 lose on average 15 per cent of their body weight after four months, while those with a starting BMI of over 40 can lose on average up to 20 per cent of their body weight after six months.
Patients also kept 95 per cent of their weight off for a year after treatment.
A nutrition and lifestyle programme is provided by Allurion to help keep people on track.
To date around 130,000 people worldwide have been treated privately with the procedure.
However, it is not without its side effects. Users commonly complain of nausea and vomiting, but these are both often temporary.
Studies also show heartburn affects around one in ten people with a balloon as it causes the stomach to empty slower, allowing a build-up of stomach acid.
But the weight-loss balloon is considered a cheaper alternative to surgery. Until now, it has only been available privately in the UK from £3,000.
Other weight loss surgery such as gastric bands can cost between £5,000 and £10,000.