A Non-Surgical Gastric Bypass? Really?

Diet products are a “dime a dozen”. Well, actually… they’re usually MUCH more expensive than that. They’re a mega-million dollar business category and some of those companies go to GREAT lengths to protect those business interests – often at what seems to be at the expense of the little things… like truth, safety, etc.

Fad Diets

One of the latest products to take the web by storm is a product from Roca Labs that is touting itself as “Gastric Bypass NO Surgery”

This medical innovation is an easy-to-use formula that you can mix with any drink. Take it in the morning and it creates an immediate gastric bypass effect: only 20% of your stomach volume will be available for food/calorie intake, forcing you to eat 50% less and lose weight from day one!

The patented β-Glucan® ingredient regulates your blood sugar levels and eliminates the body’s need for sweets and snacks.

Now, first off… if these claims are true, it would be more accurate to say this “creates an immediate gastric band or vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) effect”. See, the band and VSG are restrictive only procedures… as a tool they help you lose weight by helping you control portion size, they limit the amount of food you can eat at any given time.

Gastric Bypass (RNY), does this as well, but it also has a mal-absorption component…. something this product can not mimic. So right off the bat I think they’re being a bit misleading. They likely went this route because in the US, the bypass is much more well known than the other two surgeries… so I suppose they have to play off that recognition, right?

There is no shortage of videos and other testimonials out there that talk up the benefits of their product… I’m not here to give you a review of it, cause with my own altered anatomy, it’s probably not something I should be taking. My own “stomach” (or rather a pouch) is way too small as it is for me to be ingesting a product that would further reduce it’s function, even if it is GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).

UPDATE 1/13/2013: Because of a letter I recently received from a law firm that claims to represent Roca Labs, Inc. I would like to add a clarification here. I am NOT reviewing the product and its effectiveness. What I am doing here is giving some reference to the ingredients they state to be using, looking up freely available information to determine what those ingredients are and how they may be applied to a weight loss product. I am not a medical professional, I’m not a chemist. I am relying on sources that are generally regarded as reliable references. As to their claim of needing to protect their brand against casting of their product in a false light – I do not see how I do so here. I make no claim to the product not working as advertised, I simply state I would not personally recommended, but neither do I tell anyone to not do so themselves, I just ask that they check with their doctor… which is sound advice no matter how you wish to choose to lose weight.

In fact, instead of being disparaging, this posting and the comments that I have allowed to be posted here may actually be giving them positive exposure. I have in no way censored any of the comments left, despite my personal opinion of the product.

According to their own website, the product is a “Natural Formula is based on healthy fibers: β-Glucan®, Xanthan Gum, and Guar Gum.” Let’s take a quick look at each of these ingredients… shall we?

Beta Glucans

Basically, WebMD says “Beta glucans are sugars that are found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, lichens, and plants, such as oats and barley. They are sometimes used as medicine.” They go on to say beta glucans can be used topically for treatment of various skin ailments, as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection as part of some cancer treatments, as muscular injections to boost immune functions and via IV to help prevent infections. When taken orally, it can help block cholesterol absorption from food in the stomach and intestines. And while there are some seemingly minor possible side effects when taken by injection, there don’t seem to be any known side effects when taken orally, and not enough know about when it’s applied topically.

Interestingly enough, it’s also used as a food additive in things like salad dressings, frozen desserts, sour cream, and cheese spreads… which leads me to believe it some how plays a small part in the “thickening” aspects of the product.. and that possibly they’re trying to use it’s possible cholesterol blocking trait as part of their gastric bypass effect claim? Though it seems to work in the same way oatmeal or other fibers do when it comes to blocking cholesterol absorption.

The most common source of this stuff seems to be bakers yeast. So yea, this stuff is 100% natural, and as far as the FDA is concerned it’s GRAS and doesn’t need any sort of pre-market approval – and while they generally don’t have any quantity restrictions, the WebMD site doesn’t recommend taking more than 15g a day orally and to avoid if pregnant or breast-feeding. The Roca Labs website has a standard disclaimer about consulting a physician before using if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

Xanthan Gum

According to WikiPedia, “One of the most remarkable properties of xanthan gum is its ability to produce a large increase in the viscosity of a liquid by adding a very small quantity of gum, on the order of one percent.” It also is a stabilizer, keeping things like salad dressings from separating.

Also from WikiPedia: “It is also a preferred method of thickening liquids for those with swallowing disorders, since it does not change the color or flavor of foods or beverages.” So yea, this seems to be a thickening agent at play here.

Xanthan Gum can come from a variety of sources such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat – they seem to list barley as one of their sources… so folks with food allergies could run into some possible issues there.

Gaur Gum

Checking WikiPedia again, gaur gum is an extract of the gaur bean. Along with the Xanthan Gum, Gaur Gum is supposed to help produce a “pleasant texture”. I haven’t actually tried the product, so I can’t comment on their success here in that regard.  Like Xanthan, it’s too is a thickener, but gaur gum is also an emulsifier… so it probably plays a part in keeping all the ingredients playing well together.

Other Stuff

The rest of the ingredients they list include Natural Flavors, Maltodextrin, Vitamins C, B6 and B12. Not much to say here except that the Maltodextrin is likely in there as a sweetener.

A few things that may be a bit mis-leading if you don’t take a moment to really look at them…

β-Glucan®: an FDA-approved ingredient” – when the FDA labels something as GRAS, it is NOT the same as being FDA Approved. It basically means that there’s no evidence that the FDA needs to do any sort of approval process on it.

“it has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and strengthen the immune system” – While the reading I did supports the claims of the possibility of beta glucans lowering cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, I think the immune system claim is a bit mis-leading. It seems to get that benefit from the beta glucan, you need to take it by IV or other injection, not by mouth. Unless they’re saying by losing weight and all that you gain some benefits.

I couldn’t find any sort of “nutritional information”, so I’m not sure what percentages the various ingredients are in… but they all are pretty much carbohydrates… except for the added micronutrients… couldn’t find anything that said anything about how many calories or anything the actual product has.

I dunno… I get the concept of how it’s supposed to work… and can even see in theory how it would help… but I fail to see how this will give you any sort of long term results.

So many people look at bariatric surgery as it’s the “easy way out”. It’s not… yes, in the case of RNY, VSG and the DS surgeries, you can and likely will lose a lot of weight rather quickly. And I suppose I could see doing so with a product like this as well.

BUT

If you don’t put in the effort of learning how to eat better, learning how to take some control over your portions, learning how to deal with head hunger and the potential emotional reasons behind your over-eating in the first place… you will likely gain back the weight. And a product like this does absolutely nothing to address any of those aspects… well, except for a passing note at the bottom of one of their FAQ items - “Since you are now eating so much less, it is recommended that the food you do eat be nutritious, low-calorie and supplemented with vitamins. Exercise is not necessary, but will greatly accelerate your weight loss.” and some language in their terms that says “The Diet will assist so long as the diet process depends upon appetite and not invalid psychological reasons (such as depression, boredom, sadness, etc)”

So yea… would I personally recommend trying something like this? No. Especially if you’ve already had some sort of surgically restrictive procedure and are thinking this will help you lose those last few pounds or something. If you do your own due diligence and still want to give it a shot… check with your doctor… look hard for some of the non-corporate produced material out there on this (or any “diet”) before putting down your money on it.

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About Rob

I had RNY Gastric Bypass on April 8, 2009. I went from my heaviest of over 380 down to a low of 188 (for about a day!) before working on rebuilding muscle and such. Now I maintain at about 225. WLS has changed my life in so many ways, including my career as I now tackle nutritional coaching and other obesity education issues and is also a co-host on The Wake Up Call, a health and wellness radio show.