One Board certified plastic surgeon is calling B.S. on a trendy way to surgically alter the tongue in the hopes of weight loss.ABC's 20/20 reporter Cecilia Vega recently featured a segment where a new weight-loss method shocked two prominent Los Angeles based doctors who each had strong opinions about the procedure.
"20/20: The Naked Truth" featured two heavyset women who were about to have a hard plastic mesh sewn onto their tongues that would inflict pain if they tried to eat any solid food. Their goal was to lose 20 pounds in one month.
Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Nikolas Chugay, of Long Beach, Calif., introduced the procedure from Latin America and was effusive to ABC's Vega about the efficacy.
When ABC asked if sewing a foreign object into somebody's mouth was healthy, Chugay said, "Well, it's not unhealthy." "It's a pattern interrupt," he said. "When patients want to swallow food, they realize, 'Hey, I cannot do that. That's why I have this patch here.'"
Patients go on a strict, 800-calorie-per-day liquid diet of shakes and low-calorie beverages until the patch is removed after one month. The plan also involves a 45-minute daily workout. Of course, the doctor did not speak to the reduced energy of someone on a strict liquid diet, which happens.
The ten-minute procedure costs $2,000 and takes 10 minutes.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Dr. Christine Petti, a plastic surgeon in nearby Torrance, Calif. "I could never advise a procedure that would cause a patient pain. ... Pain is not a good thing for anybody."
Dr. Petti is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. She trained in plastic surgery at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.Dr. Petti has appeared four times since 2009 as a guest plastic surgery expert on “The Doctors” national TV show. Dr. Petti has achieved the annual honor of being named the #1 Cosmetic Surgeon and Favorite Cosmetic Surgeon in the South Bay by the Daily Breeze of Los Angeles since 2004.
Dr. Petti was not alone in her condemnation. "I think it's a barbaric procedure," said Dr. Rob Huizenga, a specialist in long-term weight-loss who spent 14 seasons as an expert on NBC's hit reality TV series "The Biggest Loser." "This is so primitive an approach," Huizenga said. "You could hire somebody to hold a gun to your head and threaten to shoot you every time you eat. You could have somebody with a hammer hit you over the head every time you threaten to have something to eat."
"If I could say one thing, it's that the whole concept that you jump-start is absurd," Huizenga said.
Studies show most extreme dieters who lose weight rapidly eventually gain it all back -- and more, he said.
"There's not one scintilla of hope or evidence that putting a patch on your tongue and not being able to eat for a month is going to have any effect on you at one year, or two years or three years," he said.
The final tally: One woman lost 18 pounds, the other 23.
"Once they take the patch off, we put them on the boot camp diet," Dr. Nikolai Chugay said. "It's a strict diet, kind of plant-based diet that patients are placed on for another month. And then, I prepare them for the regular maintenance diet that they'll stay on for the rest of their lives."
ABC reported that in just a few hours of having the tongue patch removed, one woman went straight back to her old bad habits and enjoyed her favorite feast: Korean barbecue.
The other cracked after three days, having a slice of cake and two tacos.