New weight-loss method requires patients to get over ‘ick’ factor

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ST. LOUIS -- Losing weight is a struggle for many people, but a new weight loss device recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration might be the easiest way ever to shed pounds.

Washington University Medical School helped develop the device, the Aspire Assist, but one doctor warned it might gross some people out.

“It’s a feeding tube that removes some of the ingested food,” Washington University Medical School Doctor Vladimir Kushnir said. “There is a significant ick factor to aspiration therapy that you have to get over.”

Eric Wilcoxon from Poplar Bluff, Mo., once weighed more than 400 pounds.

“I lost close to 100 pounds within the first year,” he said.

Wilcoxon now weighs 268 pounds. Even better, he can eat whatever he wants.

“If I want to go out to dinner and have a steak, I’m going to eat a great big meal,” he said.

Wilcoxon credits the Aspire Assist for his miraculous weight loss turnaround.

About 30 minutes after a meal Wilcoxon pumps out one third of the food from his stomach or about one-third of the calories he’s consumed.

“I was fat, I was obese, and I was sick of being that,” he said.

The device is connected to a port on the skin, which is secured to a tube inside the stomach. When the port is opened, the stomach contents empty into the toilet.

The process takes about 10 minutes. Wilcoxon has a port on his stomach; he connects the device to his port and siphons or aspirates the food into the toilet. He does this faithfully.

With every meal Wilcoxon drinks lots of water and he chews the food into tiny pieces so it can flow throw the small exit tube. He eats less because it takes him so long to eat.

“People don’t grasp how much you have to chew your food in order to aspirate (it),” Wilcoxon said.

Not only has Wilcoxon lost weight, he no longer is required to take blood pressure, diabetes, or heart medicine. And life with his family is so much better.

“It’s been life-changing, definitely,” said Christy Wilcoxon, Wilcoxon's wife.

Kushnir said the Aspire Assist is for people who are moderately to severely obese. Most insurance companies do not cover the cost, which is about $8,700.

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