Tongue Patches: The Next Diet Trend?

Tongue Patches: The Next Diet Trend?

One step away from wiring your jaws shut, a seemingly medieval new technique for weight loss is gaining widespread popularity in Venezuela. Rather than going an invasive route like Lap-Bands, gastric bypass surgery or, if you believe the rumors about Janet Jackson, rib removal, the process attacks overeating at the source: the mouth. It involves stitching a postage stamp-sized swath of plastic, dubbed the Miracle Patch, onto a patient’s tongue. The plastic, made of a material called marlex, is abrasive and makes it very painful, if not impossible, to chew solid food. Thus, the patient is forced into a liquid-only diet that, as long as it doesn’t consist of pureed Big Macs, leads to rapid weight loss — reportedly up to 30 pounds in one month.

As you can imagine, there are some drawbacks. First, dropping 30 pounds in a month’s time is pretty much safe only for the morbidly obese. Second, the device can make it difficult to talk. Third, there may be swelling of the tongue — at least for the first day or two. Fourth, some have found it hard to sleep with the patch in. Fifth, surgically attaching any foreign object to your body comes with the risk of infection. Sixth, basically any tongue movement causes pain, so chances are you won’t be in the best mood while the patch is in. Finally, you have to wonder if a liquid diet is an appropriate way to “re-train” yourself to eat properly.

Thankfully, the process does show some level of restraint by restricting the length of time the patch can be used to one to two months. After that time, if the patient doesn’t get it removed, the tongue actually grows through the holes in the plastic, and the patch becomes “incorporated into the tongue.” When the four-to-eight-week time period is up, the patient consults with nutritionists to determine how to continue toward his or her weight-loss goal.

Thus, the device is designed to be a short-term solution, a radical way to kick-start a diet that, according to creator Nikolas Chugay, is a “last resort” for people who’ve tried and failed to lose weight in other ways. Chugay is a plastic surgeon who’s actually based in the US (Beverly Hills, of course) and has offered the patch since 2009. However, he’s had fewer than 70 takers willing to pay the $2,000 cost, even though it’s much less expensive than the $15,000 to $35,000 cost of Lap-Bands or gastric bypass surgery.

As wary as Americans have been, though, Venezuelans have been just as receptive. Chugay exported the process to the country in 2011, and populace has eaten (or drunk) it up. One Caracas clinic reports seeing about 900 patients a month — aided, no doubt, by the fact that the procedure costs a mere $150 in Venezuela. The country, it seems, is very beauty-conscious, particularly when it comes to women, who often aspire to be beauty pageant queens.

(Sources: Time, DrChugay.com)