'Balloon bellies' are the latest weight loss fad

Who doesn't love a good summer BBQ party?

You light the grill... turn on the music... and of course make sure there are plenty of distractions for the kids -- like maybe squirt guns and balloons.

But these days, balloons aren't just for backyard parties and making balloon animals.

Now, doctors are trying to cram them down your throat and into your gut!

The "balloon belly" is the latest fad in weight loss, and new studies aim to bring it to millions of new patients.

Until now, the balloons required sedation and an endoscope to drop them into the gut, where they were pumped full of saline and had an alarming tendency to pop.

The new balloons are far simpler: You swallow a pill with a glass of water.

Don't be fooled; this is no baby aspirin-sized pill. It has a balloon inside it, and it remains attached to a tube at first, so you'd better work on that gag reflex.

Once the balloon is in your belly, the tube is used to pump it up. One tube being studied uses water, while another uses -- believe it or not -- frozen carbon dioxide.

Then, the tube gets pulled out, and the balloon stays inflated in your gut for several months. Since you feel full all the time, you eat less.

And, unlike the current balloons, which need another round of sedation and another endoscope to remove, these new balloons deflate by themselves and end up in the toilet when it's all over.

As easy as that might sound, don't sign up for a balloon belly of your own just yet.

First off, they cost thousands of dollars. Even if the procedure is covered by your insurance, you could end up with some pretty hefty out-of-pocket expenses.

And second, unlike a balloon animal, there's no magic trick here. It's not a simple matter of presto chango -- you're now thinner than ever!

In the studies on the new balloons, it took about 16 weeks to lose an average of roughly 34 pounds in obese patients.

That's a hair over two pounds a week, or about what you would expect to lose with 16 weeks of very moderate dieting.

But while 16 weeks of the balloon treatment might leave you thinner, don't expect it to last.

After all, you didn't learn the sensible habits you'll need to keep thin over the long haul.

The balloon did all the work for you!

What you learn by adopting the sensible and easy-to-follow Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, won't end in 16 weeks.

It's something that'll stay with you, so you'll lose the weight over the short term... and you'll keep it off in the long run, too.