A weight-loss device created by the University of Otago in New Zealand, with UK researchers, has earned the ire of both experts and internet commentators.
The DentalSlim Diet Control was touted as a “world-first” weight-loss device by its creators. The intra-oral contraption features magnetic devices with custom manufactured “locking bolts” that allow wearers to open their mouths approximately 2 millimetres, restricting them to a liquid diet, although “it allows free speech and doesn’t restrict breathing”.
Lead researcher, University of Otago’s health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Professor Paul Brunton, said it is an “effective, safe and affordable tool for people battling obesity”.
“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.
The device needs to be fitted by a dentist, can be released by the user in the case of an emergency, and can be repeatedly fitted and removed.
“It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures,” the creators state. “The fact is, there are no adverse consequences with this device.”
However, a few hours after it was announced online, it was slammed by experts and social media users, many of whom compared it to medieval torture devices.
Some have drawn parallels between DentalSlim Diet Control and “jaw wiring”, an uncommon medical practice used to keep the jaw in place while a fracture heals, which was used as a controversial weight-loss method in the 1970s and ’80s.
Others have objected to the fact that the device oversimplifies the issue of obesity and does not address sustainable and long-term weight loss.
Deanne Jade, the founder and principal of the UK’s National Centre for Eating Disorders, called the device “heinous” in an interview to The Independent.
“When we talk about weight loss, we’re not talking about something that prevents you from putting food in your mouth. We’re looking for changes in mindset, lifestyle, skills and strategies that people need to learn in order to change their relationship with food for life. I can’t for the life of me see how a tool like this is going to create the commitment needed for a sustained change,” Jade said.
Following the backlash, University of Otago researchers replied on Twitter: “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 device removed. They could then have a period with a less restricted diet and then go back into treatment. This would allow for a phased approach to weight loss supported by advice from a dietician,” a second tweet reads.
However, users on social media continued to pan the device for failing to address the psychological dangers of obesity and fat-shaming, with many saying the creation of such a device added to the problem.
At the time of writing, University of Otago had not released any further statements.