Saturday, 17 October 2009

Scientific Breakthrough: 'The Roman Box' Allows you Eat Without Digesting

Guest Post by A. Hack

A new scientific breakthrough may soon allow people to decide how much of each food type they digest, or even to digest none of the food they are eating.

A device being dubbed The Roman Box filters food as it passes into the stomach, applying a combination of chemical and electrical processes to change its composition. The device also has a discrete set of dials and an external outlet which allows the owner to configure their digestion and channel some or all of the food out of the body before it is digested, to be collected in a 'gastrostomy' bag.

The name Roman Box is a reference to the practice, said to be common among the rich in Roman times, of vomiting during a feast to allow more food to be eaten.

Peter Perkins, an engineer from Bedford, UK, says he has been working on the invention for several years but the product is now finally ready to go into production.

"This is the most significant breakthrough in dieting science there has ever been," he said yesterday."For the first time, we will be able to physically intervene in the process of digestion, allowing people to choose whether to digest the food they are eating and if so which type of nutrients to absorb."

"It came to me when I was deliberately throwing up after an especially large eating binge about 10 years ago," he explained. "I realised that if I could stop the food getting as far as the stomach in the first place, there would be no need for all that effort."

"Then, when I read about all these low carb, low fat, or high protein diets I decided what people also needed was to be able to separate the constraints on macronutrients from decisions on meal composition. If they could choose the meal they wanted to eat, while separately determining the percentages of fat, protein and carbohydrate that digested, then they would be in full control."

Yet attractive though this may sound, it raises profound questions about the implications for human eating behaviour.

Would party-goers turn their absorption down to zero and eat continuously all night? According to Mr Perkins, the only downside might be forgetting to empty your gastrostomy bag, since a full one will prevent the machine from working properly.

"I got so drunk one time that I forgot to empty my bag," he recalls. "I thought I was low carbing all my burgers but ended up gaining 5 lbs at a barbecue.

Critics argue the machine will encourages binge eating and ask what will stop a person from eating if their hunger is never sated. Whereas overeating a favourite food used to mean becoming full from eating it, now the prospect of instead becoming bored seems realistic; or might more physical factors come into play, such as the oesophagus eventually become painful or jaw ache?

Others warn that the widespread use of the Roman Box could cause a massive spike in food demand, as culinary decadence sweeps the globe.

"It's obscene," said a spokesman for Oxfam. "In fact I'm almost speechless with horror at the idea that while children starve in the developing world, people would see this as a good idea."

Mr Perkins' work has also provoked anger in the medical and nutrition world. Arnold Clamshell of the Centre for Medical Ethics said yesterday "This is a truly unfortunate development and an illustration that technological advances can nevertheless represent moral and ethical regression."

Anyone desperate to have a Roman Box fitted may have to wait, however. Mr Perkins, who is currently recovering from multiple organ failure in London Royal Infirmary, is sketchy when quizzed on the commercial status of his product.

"My mate Dave used to be a vet and my other mate, John, is in sales," he explains. "It's the perfect storm. My idea and their expertise. Within a few months we'll have this baby on the production line and I'll be choosing a yacht for my wife."

Mr Perkins' doctor is less sanguine.

"To be honest he's lucky to be alive," says Professor Legg, a senior surgeon at the hospital. "He appears to have allowed someone to fit a crude device between his oesophagus and his stomach which channels food out of his body via a puncture wound in his upper thorax."

"There were some dials attached to this device and externalised just above the sternum, apparently taken from an old radio. They appeared to regulate the release of liquids from bottles housed in the device and also change the voltage on a rusty electrode which extended into the stomach. Mr Perkins is not a well man."

A neighbour of Mr Perkins, who wishes to remain anonymous, says Mr Perkins and his friends had been drinking heavily on the day he was admitted to hospital and strange noises could be heard coming from his garage throughout the afternoon. "He has a history of mental illness," said the man. "I think that tells you all you need to know."


Bryce said...

It would be funny if it wasn't so close to the reality.

Nice one, M.

Methuselah said...

Bryce - agreed. I was close to writing this as a serious piece postulating that this sort of thing is an inevitable reality at some point down the line. But it was too depressing so I opted for the spoof instead :)

Anonymous said...

So this is the diet version of the sixpack, is it....(g)...

Rambodoc said...

I (like most of the medical community) wouldn't agree with Bryce. The gastric band may not be the best way of surgical weight loss (and I kinda hate it myself, preferring other procedures), but the latter itself is the only scientifically proven way of ensuring weight loss. If you guys talk of using evidence, there is a ton of it.
What evidence do you have (unless preference or bias counts as proof) that eight loss surgery and some madman's self-inflicted wounds are similar? One is a proven weight loss method that has helped millions of people lose weight and control diabetes, and the other is a flight of fancy. This is similar to some nutritionist claiming that low-carbers of Paleo advocates are nutso, and fasting? OMG, everyone knows fasting is bad!
My point is, finally, this: I may not advocate surgery for weight loss as the best way to lose fat, but for the majority of people who opt for it, there is simply no other way that works. Science has repeatedly shown that supervised diet and exercise does not work for these people.

Methuselah said...

Rambodoc - I think it's possible to acknowledge the success of the gastric band whilst at the same time legitimately being depressed by its necessity.

Anonymous said...

Hey, great post and love the videos lol

I got a question. I've been on Atkins for a long time, it's been great cause it help me to get over my ED, however i'm trying to go paleo (but still high fat). The only non-paleo food left on my diet (besides artificial sweeteners) is Dairy.. I gave up them couple of days ago and o_O I didn't feel this bad since gave up caffeine, not even sugar or grains where this bad...

Have you heard of dairy being adictive? and its withdrawal? I really want to give up so not gonna quit but just wondering =)


Methuselah said...

Anon - thanks. I'm not doing to ask what ED stands for because there are at least two possibilities, one of which quite personal.

I was surprised by your dairy withdrawal report, but a quick google search did find people talking about the concept, so I guess it's entirely possible. I am not sure how long it will last, but I'd be surprised if it was more than a few days.

The fact that you are getting withdrawal seems to me an indication its not something you should be eating.

Good luck - I admire your determination.

Asclepius said...

Anonymous - I too have had a bit of trouble giving up dairy, cheese in particular (for me, milk was easy to give-up). Cheese is just so damn gorgeous.

However, success has come by 1) Ensuring I am actually eating enough. Food temptation is stronger when you are hungry, 2)Having plenty of richly textured snacks I can reach for when the cheese-monster appears. This includes carrots, celery, (soaked) nuts and coconut.


Methuselah said...

Asclepius - good point about textured snacks - nut butter is a great one. I tend not to keep it in the house - it's so nice I just can't restrain myself from over-eating it!

Asclepius said...

Methuselah - I have still not got around to trying nut butter. Will put it on this week's shopping list!

Anonymous - you might also want to try a bit of goat cheese/milk as a means to weening yourself off dairy - which, although not paleo, seems to be deemed more 'acceptable' on a LC program than bovine cheese.

Methuselah said...

Asclepius - try the almond butter from Holland and Barrett. You will need to be strong. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for all the suggestions...

In my case ED stands for Eating disorders lol

Is not the cravings is the headache, nausea, etc... Still trying. About nuts spreads NO WAY for me it's worst than sugar, once it touches my lips o_O i wouldn't stop until i have eaten everything is in my house xD

Thanks again guys, if the symptoms stay longer i may try goat products in small quantity and give dairy up slowly as i did with caffeine

Ross said...

Just go paleo-lacto and free yourself of the guilt.

If you're not lactose intolerant (and it sounds like you're not), then your body has successfully made the (extremely tiny) evolutionary step to continue producing lactase into adulthood. Your body is quite well adapted to handling dairy as the protein and fat balance are extremely close to animal carcass sources. The only oddball substance in milk/dairy is the lactose and as already discussed, it's very likely that your body has adapted.

Bryce said...

I'm with Ross. The other substance that some don't do well with is Casein, but I would guess that if you have evolved to handle some of milk's ingredients (you're lactose tolerant), you may have evolved to handle others.

I still enjoy cheese, butter, and cream, which cause no unpleasantness for me due to their low/nonexistent lactose levels, and only occasionally have milk, when I'm willing to suffer the moderate side effects.

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