Cryotherapy could someday freeze your food cravings

Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 5:05 PM EDT
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Many people try the latest fad diets to lose weight, only to put the pounds back on.

What if you could freeze your food cravings away? Researchers are studying a way to do just that.

Melissa Donovan is a busy nurse and mother who has been yo-yo dieting for years.

“I have lost and gained the same 10 pounds probably six times,” she says.

When the scale tipped over 200, she knew it was time for a change.

“I think the solution for long-term weight loss may be simpler than you might think,” says David Prologo, an interventional radiologist at Emory University School of Medicine.

He says the reason yo-yo dieting doesn’t work is because most people start a diet and exercise program and then quit when their body resists.

“So they don’t reach this point where everything changes and everything gets easy,” he says.

That’s where cryoablation comes in. It's a procedure he’s performing at Emory University that works by temporarily freezing the hunger nerve.

“We use a cryoablation probe. We decrease the temperature to minus 40 degrees, thereby decreasing the signal in the nerve,” Prologo explains.

By freezing the vagus nerve, which carries hunger signals to the brain, he says you decrease the desire to eat. The nerve regenerates within a year.

“But in this case we only need that 8- to 12-month window to get people over the hump. So far we have done the procedure on 20 patients; 99.5 percent of them report decreased appetite,” Prologo says.

Jenni Cawood dropped two dress sizes after the procedure.

“It’s been a game changer,” she says. “I don’t have to eat the doughnut, I don’t have to eat chicken nuggets.”

Melissa has shed 28 pounds so far and has to remind herself to eat.

“I don’t crave sweets, I don’t crave salt, I don’t crave food,” she says.

The procedure is helping people get off the dieting roller coaster and live a healthier lifestyle.

Prologo says the ideal candidate is a person who doesn’t qualify for bariatric surgery and has a BMI between 30 and 40.

As with any surgery, he says there’s a small risk of bleeding and infection.

His hope is to make the procedure available by early next year.




REPORT: MB #4424

BACKGROUND: Weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of body weight. When weight cycling is the result of dieting, it is often called "yo-yo" dieting. A weight cycle can range from small weight losses and gains (5-10 lbs. per cycle) to large changes in weight (50 lbs. or more per cycle). Some studies suggest that weight cycling may increase the risk for certain health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gallbladder disease. Obese adults should continue to try to achieve modest weight loss to improve overall health and reduce the risk of developing obesity-related diseases. Losing and regaining weight may have a negative psychological effect if you let yourself become discouraged or depressed. Weight cycling should not be a reason to "feel like a failure." Instead it is a reason to refocus on making long-term changes in your diet and level of physical activity to help you keep off the pounds you lose.


TREATMENT: Cryotherapy, also called cryosurgery, cryoablation, percutaneous cryotherapy or targeted cryoablation therapy, is a minimally invasive treatment that uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy diseased tissue, including cancer cells. Although cryotherapy and cryoablation can be used interchangeably, the term "cryosurgery" is best reserved for cryotherapy performed using an open, surgical approach. During cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen or high pressure argon gas flows into a needle-like applicator (a cryoprobe) creating intense cold that is placed in contact with diseased tissue. Physicians use image-guidance techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) to help guide the cryoprobes to treatment sites located inside the body.


STUDY: David Prologo, MD, Interventional Radiologist at the Emory University School of Medicine is a principal investigator in the clinical trial to test the cryoablation procedure. The vagus nerve comes down and divides into two parts and doctors are freezing one of those parts. Dr. Prologo said, “What we’re trying to do by decreasing the signals in that nerve temporarily is open up a window for folks to get through so that they can live healthy on their own.” The trial will examine patients using self-reported questionnaires regarding physical activity, appetite and living habits as well as data measurement. Participants will attend five visits for evaluation and doctors will follow their progress for six months after the procedure. The outpatient cryoablation procedure takes about an hour.

(Source: David Prologo, MD &