If only weight loss was as simple as taking a pill, right?
This is a common refrain, one of them often exploits those who are walking on shady diet pills, fat burning additives, and on-line schematics for quick fit.
Before your skepticism hardened into concrete, consider this: MIT's researcher says his team developed a sophisticated pill that could reduce the space in your stomach, making it easier to avoid excess calories.
Though he does not offer a money back guarantee, Xuanhe Zhao, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is part of a team that has developed a tablet that picks up to the size of a golf ball after swallowing and can stay in the stomach for up to a month.
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The pill is still tested on models similar to human digestive tract, but researchers hope that technology will commercialize one day.
"The idea is to eat a few of these tablets, swim in the stomach, and take them with very soft materials to make people feel a lot and eat less," Zhao said. "It's simpler than surgery or placing painful rubber balloons in someone's stomach to eat less."
For those in the awesome need for extreme weight loss, the options may seem daunting and invasive. Operations such as gastric bypass and gastrectomy of the sleeve reduce stomach size – reducing the number of calories that the body can absorb – but are irreversible and carry a scary risk such as blood spots and infections.
The attraction of the spreading pills is its simplicity, Zhao said. The pill is made of two types of hydrogels – a mixture of polymers and water. Once swollen, Zhao said, the pills have consistency similar to tofu or jellies.
To remove objects from the stomach, he said, the patient would drink a calcium solution (at a concentration higher than the one in the milk) that would lower the pills to their original size, allowing them to pass through the digestive system.
Zhao said weight loss is a potential application of technology, but there are others. For years, researchers have been trying to develop a pill that can remain within the human body for weeks or even months – this is an area of research known as "ingestible electronics". The challenge, he said, is that the engineering is small enough to be taken orally, but firm enough to endure a dangerous environment in the human stomach, with its muscular juices and acidic juices.
"We really needed a tablet to swell enough quickly before the stomach was empty," said Zhao, pointing out that the pill design is inspired by the inflatable fish that quickly drains water to maximize its size and avoid predators.
As incredibly sound as possible, such a pill would allow physicians to track the body's condition, such as Ph balance, viruses, bacteria or temperature. Researchers say the pills can also be used to set up small cameras inside the body that could track tumors and sores over time. The sensors incorporated in the pill could monitor whether the patient was taking the medication according to schedule.
Do not take medicines – or "disrespect medication" in the healthcare world – "is a common and expensive problem," the study was quoted by the National Center for Biotechnical Information.
"About 30 to 50 percent of adults in the United States are not attached to long-term medicines, which amount to about US $ 100 billion annually, which can be prevented", according to a 2013 study.
Tracking a patient inside can sound futuristic, but it's already happening.
At the Minnesota University Masson Cancer Clinic, doctors have tiny sensor pills that allow them to take heart rate, activity level, and sleep cycle. The sensor, which is about the size of the sand grain and dissolves in the gastrointestinal tract, also tells doctors when the patient is injecting the drug. Information is compiled into a database that physicians can access from their devices.
"I had one patient whose hands were injured, and she could not open the pills bottle," said doctor Edward Greeno, noticing that when the daughter's daughter is near, take her tablets, but when her daughter disappears she will not , "The application tells me in real time that she has not taken the pills, and I'll get that message in the clinic the next morning."