Worms and Pumps

Eons of hunting and gathering our way across the globe carved us into lean, mean survival machines. If you were slow or sick, you wouldn’t last long, and the traits of the fittest survived to make human beings efficient calorie-collectors. 

Now that we gather our food at supermarkets and restaurants, few of us still search for enough calories to stay alive. In fact, many of us are taking in too many calories every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one in three adults in the U.S. are obese. Obesity increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

There’s always a new fad diet available, a pill you can try, or some “miracle” that claims to “cure” modern weight problems. Still, none of these methods have been proven more beneficial than exercise and a reasonable diet.

Thankfully, researchers and product developers continue to address the obesity epidemic affecting Americans. But some of their proposed treatments come straight from a 1950s horror flick.

Pump It Out!

Comedian Louis C.K. often riffs about being overweight and his tendency to overeat. One of his more famous lines is, “The meal isn’t over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.”

Fortunately for Louis and others who have a problem rationing their food intake there's the AspireAssist Aspiration Therapy System, a new device that can pump food out of your stomach right after you finish eating.

Invented by Dean Kamen—the man who brought us the Segway personal transportation device—and a group of bariatric surgeons, the AspireAssist is a small pump that connects to a tube that goes directly into the stomach. 

A patient connects the AspireAssist about 20 minutes after eating a meal, and up to 30 percent of his or her stomach contents are expelled through the pump and into the toilet.

In essence, you get the luxury of eating until you feel you’re about to burst, but without as many of the unwanted side effects—like weight gain.

Experts have been weighing in on the product, and critics are quick to point out that large portions of food can clog the device and that there's a high probability of infection, just as in the early days of gastric bypass surgery and lap-bands. Some have gone so far as to call the AspireAssist “mechanical bulimia.” 

The product is designed for severely obese people—those who have been told their weight is a health emergency. In one trial, 24 obese people each lost half of their unwanted weight using the device.

The AspireAssist has been used in Europe since late 2011, but it has yet to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Lose Weight With Worms

If pumping out your lunch doesn’t sound like fun, you can always have worms do the work for you. 

According to research in Nature Medicine, some parasitic worms secrete a sugar-based anti-inflammatory molecule, glycan, that could treat metabolic disorders associated with obesity. Worms secrete glycan to decrease inflammation in their hosts so they can better navigate through tissue. 

“Obesity is an inflammatory disease, so we hypothesized that this sugar might have some effect on complications related to it,” Donald Harn, the study co-author who worked on the research while at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a news release.

Researchers tested the parasite’s sugar byproduct on fat mice and found that they didn’t suffer the same ill effects of obesity as their control counterparts: insulin resistance, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. 

The researchers said that infecting yourself with worms won’t make you fit, but investigating glycan’s effects on the body could be beneficial.

“We see great promise in this sugar, and we hope that future research and collaborations will eventually lead to marketable therapies for people suffering from disease,” Harn said.

If Pumps and Worms Just Aren’t Your Thing

We won't blame you if you want to lose weight but aren't brave enough to get pumped or infected by parasites. If you're looking for more information on ways to shed weight and stay healthy, check out these slideshows tailored for you: