So to most people a vibrating pill has a slightly different meaning, but engineers at MIT apparently weren’t taking themselves to seriously when they decided how to name it so here we are, discussing the vibrating pill for weight loss. In theory swallowing it stimulates nerve endings in the stomach creating a sense of fullness, meaning lowered food intake. Pretty straight forward and in theory could certainly help with weight loss.
And whilst this may sound somewhat revolutionary, there are already some methods like glucomannan that simply swell in the stomach to make you feel full, and whilst they do work to a point, the sad truth is that they don’t work very well for more serious cases of obesity. The problem being that people ate through the discomfort in trials, not that they didn’t feel more full.
That said, if we’re looking overall at things that make you feel more full, this kind of thinking has been shown to work for people looking to deal with moderate weight loss issues.
And if we’re comparing the mechanism of the vibrating pill for weight loss (known as the Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator or VIBES, yes they made the acronym spell vibes) to a swelling agent is it likely to perform any better?
Understanding the Challenge of Obesity
The prevalence of obesity has reached alarming levels, with approximately 2 out of every 5 adult Americans classified as obese. Carrying excess weight not only affects one's physical appearance but also poses significant health risks. And of course, creates a burden on any hope America has of improving it’s healthcare system, not to mention other public services.
The Quest for Effective Weight Loss Solutions
In the pursuit of weight loss, researchers and clinicians have explored various strategies to control appetite and reduce calorie intake. These methods range from invasive procedures like bariatric surgery to pharmaceutical interventions that target the brain's chemistry as well as swelling agents, or lipase inhibitors. Some of these can be moderately effective depending on usage. Ultimately the vibrating weight loss pill is likely to fall into the same category of it helps, and works for some people, but it’s not going to be a perfect solution.
Introducing the Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator (VIBES) Pill
So, what is VIBES. Well the MIT engineers have taken a novel approach to creating a satiating pill for weight loss by developing the Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator (VIBES) pill.
This revolutionary pill is designed to stimulate specialized stretch receptors in the stomach wall tricking the brain into perceiving a sense of fullness.
As we’ve said glucomannan which actually fills the stomach, about 2000mg swells to the size of a bagel and is a fiber humans can’t digest, meaning no calories works in a similar fashion, except it doesn’t trick the brain, it just fills the stomach.
The VIBES pill consists of a small, gelatin-coated capsule containing a vibrating motor, yes it’s mechanical and yes it has a battery...
Once ingested, the gelatinous membrane dissolves, activating the vibrating motor, which emits gentle vibrations tuned to stimulate the sensory nerves in the stomach wall.
Now, if we were to have a choice between the natural prebiotic fiber that actually improves our healthy bacteria in the stomach, aka, glucomannan, or something mechanical that we’d have to eat and pass daily it’s not a hard choice. The other catch with vibes is that it’s also unlikely to be cheaper than a fiber which swells when you add water, despite the claims that it could be “manufactured in a cost effective manner”.
The Science Behind VIBES
To understand the effectiveness of the VIBES pill, researchers conducted experiments on pigs, which do have stomachs similar to humans. The capsules were administered to the pigs 20 minutes before their meals to ensure optimal activation. The vibrating pill stimulated the release of hormones that indicated the brain was no longer in hunger mode. As a result, the pigs with the VIBES pill in their stomachs consumed 40% less food compared to their counterparts.
Which seems all well and good. The question however to this is does it work better than glucomannan and the answer is no. And there isn’t any data to say whether the pigs ate more later as a result.
Advantages of the VIBES Pill
They claim the pill is easily swallowed and passes through the digestive system without causing any harm or discomfort. And swelling agents could be uncomfortable for some, so there is a use case there. It’s just not as exciting as recent news coverage would have you believe.
Potential Cost-Effectiveness and Accessibility
One of the key benefits of the VIBES pill is its potential cost-effectiveness. Traditional obesity treatments in the US specifically such as medications and surgery.
But if we’re comparing it to glucomannan or konjac root (which can be made into a huge portion of zero calorie noodles) then we’re struggling to see how it’s going to be effective or cheaper.
Vibrating Pill for Weight Loss Clinical Trials
While the initial results of the VIBES pill are promising further research and development are needed before it can be used in humans. Or if it’s going to beat out existing options.
The researchers are exploring ways to increase the device's operating time and refine its design for clinical trials. But, unless they can make it last substantially longer, we can’t really see it being much use any time soon.
It’s a novel approach and we commend the idea, and perhaps some sort of mechanism could replace the gastric bypass, but probably not a pill that passes through you in a short amount of time.