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The Latest Weight-Loss Trick Is Freezing the ‘Hunger Nerve’

It seems like there’s a new weight-loss trick making the news every week, doesn’t it? But the latest weight-loss technique, tested out in a recent study, is truly unlike anything we’ve ever heard before — because it involves freezing a nerve. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

The March 2018 findings, presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting, focused on 10 subjects with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 37. In the study, the researchers developed a truly, ahem, unique procedure for the patients: A radiologist stuck a needle through the patient’s back and used argon gas to freeze the “posterior vagal trunk” nerve — which is one of several systems that tells the brain that the stomach is empty. 

As fascinating as the process sounds, the results are even more mind-blowing: All of the study’s participants reported decreased appetite after the procedure. The overall average weight loss was 3.6 percent of the people’s initial body weight and there was also an average decline of nearly 14 percent of the excess BMI. In terms of side effects, no procedure-related complications were reported, and there were also no adverse effects reported during the follow-up.

“We developed this treatment for patients with mild-to-moderate obesity to reduce the attrition that is common with weight-loss efforts,” said lead author David Prologo, MD. “We are trying to help people succeed with their own attempts to lose weight.”

Dr. Prolongo also pointed out that many weight-loss programs fail if people try to cut back on their food intake on their own.

“When our stomachs are empty, the body senses this and switches to food-seeking survival mode,” said Prolongo. “We’re not trying to eliminate this biological response, only reduce the strength of this signal to the brain to provide a new, sustainable solution to the difficult problem of treating mild obesity.”

While we’re happy to hear that the initial pilot phase of this procedure has so far gone well in terms of weight loss and safety for the patients, it’s worth taking a step back and looking closely at this study before wondering if it could be right for you, too. There are several limitations at play here, especially considering the small sample size of just 10 participants. The interim nature of the results is also a limitation to keep in mind — it’s not as if these folks have been studied for decades on end after keeping the weight off. 

On top of all that, is it really necessary to freeze a nerve, of all things, just to lose weight? Furthermore, would anyone even want to?

If you prefer to lose weight the old-fashioned way, learn about some easy and healthy food swaps for weight loss in the video below:

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