A weight-loss tool that uses magnets to stop people from opening their mouths wide enough to eat solid food has been developed by scientists in order to tackle obesity.
The device, developed by medical professionals from the University of Otago in New Zealand and scientists from Leeds in the UK, can be fitted by dentists and uses magnetic components with locking bolts.
It has been criticised online, however, with people likening it to a medieval torture device.
The University of Otago tweeted that it was “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.”
Called the DentalSlim Diet Control, the device allows its users to open their mouths only 2mm wide. Initially, it was trialled on seven otherwise healthy obese women from Dunedin in New Zealand for two weeks, who were given a low-calorie liquid diet.
An article published in the British Dental Journal reported that the group of women lost a mean amount of 6.36kg – about 5.1% of their body weight.
But participants complained that the device was hard to use, causing discomfort with their speech. They said they felt tense and that “life in general was less satisfying”.
One participant did not follow the rules and instead consumed foods they were not supposed to, such as chocolate, by melting them.
Prof Paul Brunton from the University of Otago said the main barrier that stopped weight loss was “compliance”. He said that the tool helped to establish new habits that could kickstart the process”.
He said: “It is a non-invasive, reversible, economical and attractive alternative to surgical procedures.”
The DentalSlim Diet Control has received criticism online, with people on Twitter saying: “You don’t need this torture device to go on a liquid diet.”
The University of Otago said: “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.”
The research team behind the product included Dr Jonathan Bodansky of Leeds and Dr Richard Hall of RMH consultancy in Leeds.