WARNING: Weight-loss treatment linked to death risk

There's an urgent new warning for anyone considering the "latest and greatest" weight-loss method.

This one's getting plenty of attention because it has a sales pitch that's tough to beat.

You DON'T have to follow any restrictive diet... and you DON'T need any real surgery. But you DO lose weight -- and lots of it, with the glossy brochures claiming you can drop as much as 81 pounds in just six months.

So far, so good, right?

They're called weight-loss balloons. In a single outpatient procedure, docs use a tube to drop an empty balloon into your gut, and then they fill it with a solution, such as saline.

Since your stomach is always semi-full, you have less room and don't eat as much.

Six months later, they use a tube to pull the balloon out in another outpatient procedure.

Too good to be true? You bet it is: The FDA is now investigating at least FIVE DEATHS linked to two types of weight-loss balloons.

Three of them died within three days of the balloon being dropped in, while two others died within a month.

The FDA says it doesn't know why these people died, and it doesn't know if the deaths had anything to do with the balloons.

But the agency knows of at least two other deaths it can link to the balloons: In one case, the procedure poked a hole in the gut. In the other, they punctured the esophagus.

The feds also issued a safety alert earlier this year warning of other unexpected problems, including pancreatitis.

I know the idea of a quick fix is tempting, but this isn't even much of a fix to begin with.

That claim of 81 pounds of weight loss? That comes with a huge asterisk -- because that extremely optimistic scenario is not even close to what MOST folks experience.

In one of the studies used to get the balloons approved, patients lost an average of 14 pounds over six months, or a little more than two pounds a month.

That's already nothing to write home about.

But this gets even worse: The control group in the same study lost seven pounds, making the TRUE benefit a hair over a pound a month.

And as the new FDA warning shows, that tiny bit of extra weight loss -- just a quarter of a pound a week -- could come with deadly risks.

Don't give in to the "quick fix" temptation on this one. If you need to lose weight, do it the right way with diet and exercise.

It'll work better... it's far safer... and you can save the balloons for the big celebration when you achieve your goal.