Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Modern Vomitorium

By Michael Cook

A portable stomach pump has been developed so that morbidly obese people can continue to gorge themselves and still lose weight.

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Some morsels of ancient history are unforgettable. One of these is the vomitorium, a well-known feature of Roman banquets that has become an emblem of the decadence of life under the emperors.

But I was wrong. The “well-known” vomitorium never existed. There was gluttony, of course – gobs of it – and it is described in emetic detail by some of the classical authors. But there were no rooms where satiated guests could disgorge their flamingo tongues and return for a serving of peacock brains (a menu mentioned in the Life of Vitellius by Suetonius).

However, what the Romans failed to have invented, the Americans have. A company called Aspire has developed a portable stomach pump attached to a stomach peg so that morbidly obese people can stay at the table and still lose weight. After a meal they just remove some of the partially digested contents.

“Some people manage to lose weight on a diet, but the kinds of changes you need to make to keep it off are probably not sustainable for many,” said a company spokeswoman. “There’s a lot to be said for people being in the driver’s seat with their own body, with their own health.”

While the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved the device, so it is not available commercially in the US, it is already available in some places in Europe.

If your response to AspireAssist is “Yuk!” you are...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.