MelCap Systems’ Electronic Diet Pill for Weight Loss
What is MelCap Systems’ Electronic Diet Pill?
MelCap Systems recently applied for a US patent for a pill which uses electromagnetic signals to trick the body into thinking that it’s full. MelCap Systems’ flagship product is currently still in the early research phases, but it’s begun to draw attention from medical professionals and diet experts for its unique approach to weight loss.
The idea behind the pill is that by using an electromagnet, the remote control pill can be positioned in the user’s stomach in such a way that the stomach believes that it is full of food. The body then sends signals to the brain telling it not to eat any more, and as such, the user’s appetite is decreased, helping the user to lose weight.
The pill also swells within the stomach to take up more room, meaning that the body requires less food before the stomach is full, with the intention of reducing food intake. After 21 days the pill dissolves and harmlessly breaks down, exiting the body via the bowels as faecal matter.
The electronic pill is still a long way from a retail release, but this hasn’t stopped the diet world from speculating as to the potential of similar systems that stimulate the body into thinking it has already eaten.
How Does MelCap Systems’ Electronic Diet Pill Work?
The theory behind MelCap Systems’ electronic pill is based on the way that two parts of the stomach – the lower oesophagus sphincter and the vagus nerve – send signals to the brain. Both are important parts of communicating to the brain the current state of digestion, and whether or not the body requires more food.
The lower oesophagus sphincter (also known as the lower oesophageal sphincter or the lower esophagus sphincter) is positioned at the entrance to the stomach and is responsible for letting food in from the oesophagus – when the muscle contracts, food cannot enter the stomach and, crucially, food and air cannot return up from the stomach and out of the mouth (in the form of gaseous reflux or vomit). Stimulating the lower oesophagus sphincter is believed to aid patients with reflux disorders.
The vagus nerve takes signals from the stomach and the heart to the brain, communicating messages about how these organs are operating. When the stomach is full, the vagus nerve is responsible for telling the brain that no more food is required, and the brain responds by lowering appetite. This is why food becomes unappealing when the stomach is full.
According to MelCap Systems, their electronic pill settles in the stomach by use of a remote control (which, MelCap Systems claims, can be controlled by an Android or iPhone) before absorbing stomach acid and growing in size to take up more room in the stomach – hence it requires less food for the stomach to become full, working along similar theory to gastric bands but without invasive surgery. The electronic pill then uses electric shocks to stimulate the lower oesophagus sphincter and the vagus nerve to tell the brain that no more food is required.
With the lower oesophagus sphincter stimulated, the stomach believes that it is full of food and that additional food cannot be stored. The vagus nerve when stimulated tells the brain that the stomach has enough food, which according to MelCap Systems, results in the brain sending signals as the body loses its appetite.
Stimulating both the lower oespohagus sphincter and the vagus nerve are already used in treatment of various illnesses. Lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation is believed to be useful in treating gastroesophageal reflux, and vagus nerve stimulation has been tested for treatment of conditions including fibromyalgia, depression and epilepsy. It is MelCap Systems’ assertion that the use of an electronic pill makes these treatments easier as well as aiding weight loss, although the company is currently primarily pursuing weight loss possibilities for their system.
The electronic pill’s third purported effect – growing in size within the stomach to reduce the amount of food the can be eaten – is based on existing scientific research into gastric band surgery. Gastric bands have been proven in clinical trials to be an effective long-term cure for obesity, and they are regularly used as treatment in cases of extreme life-threatening obesity. Gastric band treatment involves surgically altering the size of the stomach to reduce the amount of food that can be eaten without the patient feeling full. As the patient’s stomach fills quicker, the body stops sending hunger impulses, meaning that the patient can dramatically reduce their food intake, and therefore, lose weight. MelCap Systems’ pill involves triggering a similar reaction with a pill that expands in the stomach to fill more space, before breaking down after 21 days and passing harmlessly out of the user’s system.
What Scientific Evidence Exists for MelCap Systems’ Electronic Diet Pill Work?
The techniques used by MelCap Systems’ early research are new and have not yet been fully explored in clinical studies, so there is not much clinical evidence supporting the use of electronic pills to encourage weight loss at this time – as such, MelCap Systems has to perform a great deal of unique research before its electronic pill can be confirmed a successful treatment. That said, the possibilities afforded by stimulating the lower oesophagus sphincter and the vagus nerve have been well documented, and are used for treatment of several illnesses.
In 2013 a study looked at the effects of lower oespophagus sphincter stimulation on patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Electrodes were surgically attached to the lower oesophagus sphincter of 24 patients, 23 of which were able to retain these electrodes for the full study period of 6 months. It was found that after the trial period, 21 of these participants were found to show fewer daily symptoms of GERD than they had at the beginning of the trial. This led the scientists conducting the study to conclude that there are potential benefits to using lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation to treat GERD. While this does not prove that lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation is also effective at aiding weight loss, it does suggest that electrical stimulation may improve general stomach acidity and conditions likely to cause a stomach upset. Further research is required to ascertain the exact benefits that lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation offers.
A 2011 study examined the effects of using vagus nerve stimulation to treat fibromyalgia. 14 patients took place in a 3 month study, or which 12 completed the study (2 participants experienced negative effects and were removed for their safety), and 11 patients continued to attend regular check-up appointments for 11 months after the start of the study. The study found generally positive results for those who tolerated the treatment, with patients reporting less pain and fatigue, with positive effects increasing over time after the study. While this study is in no way connected to weight loss, it suggests that there may be some benefit to communicating with the brain via the vagus nerve in order to alter the body’s reactions to pain and, possibly, other signals. That said, the study had a very small participant group and these results may be coincidental – it’s also relevant to note that two participants of a very small group suffered negative effects, meaning that stimulating the vagus nerve may have potentially unwelcome side effects.
2013 saw the publication of a long-term 15-year study analysing the effects of gastric band surgery on a large number of patients. 3227 patients were analysed to determine the effect that their gastric bands had produced with regards to their appetite and weight loss – 714 of these patients had been fitted with a gastric band over ten years previously. The study found that the average weight loss for long-term participants was 47.1% after fifteen years, meaning that participants had nearly halved their weight in the time since the band had been fitted – crucially, they had also managed to maintain this lighter weight for many years after the surgery. This led the scientists to conclude that gastric band surgery provides significant long term improvements in weight loss for patients who had previously suffered from severe obesity.
What Side Effects are Associated with MelCap Systems’ Electronic Diet Pill?
One of the main responsibilities that MelCap Systems has before their electronic diet pill can be released for public use is ensuring that the pill does not come with any potentially dangerous side effects. At present it is not known what side effects is any the pill produces, and whether or not it will interact with any other medication, or exacerbate existing medical conditions.
There is already an understanding of some of the side effects associated with vagus nerve stimulation as a result of previous clinical studies and treatment. As current methods of treatment involve surgical implants the biggest risk is infection – this would not be the case with an electronic pill. Other common side effects include a hoarse throat, coughing and voice alteration. As a result of the electrical signals used in stimulating the vagus nerve, some patients have also reported experiencing a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation as a result of treatment. Other patients have reported headaches, nausea, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing during exercise as a result of vagus nerve stimulation.
In existing tests of lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation, which again involved surgical implants, very few side effects have been shown. Outside of a potential risk for infection, the only treatment-related side effects that participants have shown have been related to difficulties swallowing, but these effects were not serious and cleared up over time. This has led the scientist conducting previous studies to conclude that there are very few if any negative effects related to lower oesophagus sphincter stimulation, although further research is necessary to guarantee that there are no negative effects to a wider range of users with pre-existing conditions.
Most of the negative effects currently associated with gastric bands are related to the surgical process involved, but outside of the risk of infections, some user experience gallstones and food intolerance following the fitting of a gastric band. It is not known whether a metal pill in the stomach will produce similar effects.
MelCap Systems’ electronic diet pill is currently very far from being available as a treatment for weight loss, as a great deal of research is needed to guarantee its effectiveness and its safety. The treatment involves filling the stomach with a metal pill that sends electrical stimulation to the lower oesophagus sphincter and the vagus nerve to make the brain think that the stomach is already full. Clinical evidence already exists for using similar electrical stimulation to treat other ailments, but their effects on weight loss have not been studied. Side effects have been reported, but they are not serious.
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