Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, causing diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease.

But now diabetics have the chance to try new technology to lose weight and control blood sugar. And it's completely free.

It's an endless cycle for people with type 2 diabetes, constantly trying to control blood sugar and weight gain.

'Because of the sheer numbers of people with obesity, it's very challenging for us to manage them and causing a huge burden on the health care system,' said Dr. Vivian Fonseca, the chief of endocrinology at Tulane. He is also a past president of the American Diabetes Association.

In fact, it can be harder for a diabetic to control hunger and lose weight.

'It is very hard, particularly with some of the medications that actually cause weight gain,' he explained.

But now you could be among the first in the U.S. to try a new device that's been successful in other countries. It's called the EndoBarrier.

'There's published data to show that it does improve glucose control for diabetes, does improve diabetes control, and causes a modest degree of weight loss. It hasn't been tested in this country where people are much more obese and the genetic make up is different,' Dr. Fonseca said.

But now 13 medical sites across the U.S., including Tulane in New Orleans, will run clinical trials on the EndoBarrier.

Here's how it works: Under light sedation, a gastroenterologist does a quick procedure, like an endoscope. A tube is put through the mouth, down the throat, and past the stomach. Then a long thin plastic bag floats freely in the beginning of the small intestines. The top is stitched to the opening between the stomach and the small intestines. The EndoBarrier should keep digestive juices from coming in contact with the food until much farther along in the intestines.

'So the food doesn't get digested quickly. It slows it down, and then it gets digested much later. So it stops perhaps these spikes of blood sugar and that contributes to an improvement in blood sugars as well as some weight loss,' Said Dr. Fonseca.

There is no cutting, no medication, no side effects to other parts of the body, and the procedure is completely reversible.

'There is a small chance, sometimes these devices can have some irritation or bleeding or get blocked. Fortunately, it doesn't happen often. From the experience in Europe, when that happens, it's a simple process of having another endoscopy and pulling it out,' he explained.

The free procedure is for a year. Two-thirds of the patients will get the EndoBarrier. One-third will just have an endoscope.

Patients and Dr. Fonseca will not know who got the real device. At the end of the year study, all people who just got the endoscope will be given the EndoBarrier.

To qualify, you need to have diabetes that is not well controlled. It's for adults on one or two medications who are overweight. It's not yet for people using insulin.

For more information call toll free 1-888-9STUDY9 (1-888-978-8399); locally call 504-988-0200.

Cities in the trial:

Ann Arbor, MI
Atlanta, GA
Billings, MT
Birmingham, AL
Boston, MA
Chapel Hill, NC

Chicago, IL
Dallas TX
Denver, CO
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Portland, OR
Washington DC

For more on the study, click here.

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