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A New Buzz in Weight Loss

Bradshaw has since shrunk from a size 28 to a size 14. (Meanwhile her friend, who didn't lose weight, dropped out of the trial long ago, opting instead for gastric bypass.) But even with the pacemaker, slimming down has been a struggle, Bradshaw said. Not until doctors adjusted the wires during a second surgery nearly two years later did she see any results.

Now, she said, she feels full after eating a small portion and can go for much longer periods without feeling hungry.

Tired of trying to shed excess weight, Jamie Finley will begin a trial of the gastric pacemaker. (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)

_____Volunteers Needed_____
Researchers at GW are seeking additional volunteers for their study of the surgically implanted gastric pacemaker.
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"I call it my Thanksgiving-full feeling," she said. "If I went to eat again, I'll get uncomfortable after a couple of bites."

But Bradshaw said the device doesn't deserve all the credit for her success. Since getting the implant, she's also started a rigorous exercise program that has her waking up at 4 a.m. each morning to complete a five- to seven-mile power walk before work. She's also become choosier about her diet and eating patterns -- an important part of weight management, many weight loss experts say.

"I consider [the device] an aid. It helps me stay on track. But if you just go from eating six doughnuts to four, it's not going to work and you're not going to lose the weight," she said.

Though she can't feel the current or any other sensation from the device, she knows it's there because she can feel its hard case when she presses below her rib. "I tell my son it's my battery pack," she said.

Researchers hope that at the end of the two-year trial, they'll have a better understanding of who are the best candidates for the device. They will be testing it on both men and women; all participants will have a body mass index -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- between 35 and 55 (30 qualifies as obese; gastric bypass patients generally must have a BMI of 40 or higher).

To rule out a placebo effect, the study will be double-blinded: For the first year, neither the researchers nor the patients will know which devices are activated, said Frank. During the second year, all the devices will be turned on.

All participants will receive nutritional counseling and be urged to follow a low-calorie diet and exercise program.

Finley said she hopes she'll be one of the patients chosen to receive a working device from the start, but either way, she's looking forward to getting started.

"I like the fact that they're not going to be pumping chemicals into my body," she said. "Under the worst-case scenario, I'm getting a year of one-on-one counseling with a weight loss professional. Either way, I win."

Rita Zeidner is a frequent contributor to the Health section.

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