A new weight-loss device that uses magnets to stop a person’s jaw from opening wide enough to eat solid foods has been developed to help fight the “global obesity epidemic.”
The tool, developed by researchers from the United Kingdom and the University of Otago in New Zealand, uses magnetic devices with unique custom-manufactured locking bolts that can be fitted to the upper and lower back teeth.
“Otago and UK researchers have developed a world-first weight-loss device to help fight the global obesity epidemic: an intra-oral device that restricts a person to a liquid diet,” the university tweeted Sunday.
Dubbed the DentalSlim Diet Control, the device allows the wearer to open their mouths just 1/5 of a centimeter (2mm), while still allowing users to breathe normally. It was initially trialed on seven healthy obese women from Dunedin in New Zealand for two weeks, according to an article published Friday in the British Dental Journal.
Of the seven women who took part in the study, they lost a mean amount of 14 pounds (6.36 kg) – roughly 5.1% of their body weight. The participants said they were satisfied with the results and motivated to lose additional weight.
They also complained of the occasional discomfort, and noted that “life, in general, was less satisfying.” One participant even admitted to “cheating” by consuming melted chocolate and carbonated drinks.
“The participants had trouble pronouncing some words and felt tense and embarrassed ‘only occasionally,’” the article added.
Lead researcher, Paul Brunton of the University of Otago, called the device an “effective, safe, and affordable tool for people battling obesity,” according to a release by the university.
“The main barrier for people for successful weight loss is compliance and this helps them establish new habits, allowing them to comply with a low-calorie diet for a period of time. It really kick-starts the process,” Brunton said. “It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures.”
But the tool was criticized online by some who likened it to a “medieval torture device.”
“A world-first and world-last, I sincerely hope. This is a torture device and you should be embarrassed to be promoting it, let alone to be associated with it,” one user wrote.
“You don’t need this torture device to go on a liquid diet,” another replied.
In response to the backlash, the university on Monday tweeted: “To clarify, the intention of the device is not intended as a quick or long-term weight-loss tool. Rather, it is aimed to assist people who need to undergo surgery and who cannot have the surgery until they have lost weight.”
“After two or three weeks they can have the magnets disengaged and [the] device removed. They could then have a period with a less restricted diet and then go back into treatment,” the university added. “This would allow for a phased approach to weight loss supported by advice from a dietician.”